Just one more step

It’s not an altogether uncommon occurance, but something about it stopped me in a new way the other day: I saw somebody throw a plastic bottle in the trash because the recycling bin was all the way across the Maize. And it wasn’t the moral outrage that stopped me (being an ardent environmentalist and loyal supporter of SEA, the indignation I feel when people fail to recycle is perhaps often disproportionate to the crime). No, it was something else. It was the fact that the offender in question did not take the time – truly only about four seconds’ worth – to walk a few more steps to the appropriate receptacle.

I do not believe it is too gross a platitude to say that even the most industrious among us is not occasionally guilty of laziness. And I am far from the exception. Perhaps my greatest transgression in the realm of the faineance is my tendancy to ignore emails because I don’t have enough time to answer or, more likely, because the thought of forming an adequate response feels too daunting to take on until later in the day.

But it’s a problem. And while some things, like recycling a single bottle or responding to email, may be trifles in the “big picture,” apathy and failure to act can be toxic when it comes to other issues. If nobody cares about the plight of the environment or of their fellow human beings, how can we ever hope to make progress? Putting in the effort to change our actions may not produce observable results now, but if we act only for the short term, what hope is there of even having a “long term” to worry about?

Perhaps I have too much faith in humanity, but I do not believe that laziness about the big problems we face today is born out of true malevolence. No, I think sometimes laziness is born from a feeling of helplessness. Problems like war, famine, inequality, or sickness seem so incredibly daunting that it’s easy to falter in our belief that mere work can overcome them. And if the force of one lone person can’t move a mountain, what is the point in pushing at all?

The thing is, we can’t afford to see our problems in this light. Getting up off our butts, walking across the Maize, hitting reply – these little steps are what will propel us into a successful future. It’s easy to get discouraged, but that’s not an excuse. Because the little actions of little individuals do matter- in both a positive and a negative way.

In “Life and Limb,” a marvelous essay about Tom White, a runner who learned to run again after having a leg amputated, author Bruce Barcott describes how White learned the necessity of not putting off the vital task of changing the liner on his prosthesis during a race. “Do it now,” White learns to tell himself – and when that isn’t enough, a fellow runner is there to say, “Oh my God, just change it. Suck it up and do it.”

Like White, sometimes we just need a mental push or even some not-so-gentle external pressure to overcome the laziness that is so easy to excuse. Perhaps calling it “laziness” is not quite fair, because at times there are real, legitimate obstacles between you and the completion of a task that, while small, may seem absolutely insurmountable for your energy level at the time. All the same, it is of utmost importance that we learn to push through, to take just one step further. Because, as White learned, taking that first step is often essential to ever being able to take anymore steps. Without that first step, we may never be able to heave ourselves over the little bumps in our road and make it to our desired ends.

So whether it’s recycling, writing a paper or attempting to end hatred and hunger, the important thing to remember is this: do it now. The extra step will take so little effort, but it will be endlessly worthwhile.

Word to your mother,

Mary Beenken, Editor-in-chief


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Welcome to the discussion. Before posting, please read our discussion guidelines.