There was once a town full of garbage. It wasn’t that the people there made extraordinary amounts of garbage or that they were particularly pleased with their garbage, it was just that they didn’t deal with their garbage very well. The garbage stunk, and it made life kind of a downer. Anytime people from this town would be traveling or meet someone new and they had to say, “I’m from Garbage Town,” people would talk about how stinky Garbage Town is and what a strange place where a town would be full of garbage.
The way things worked in Garbage Town was that everyone created garbage, and just put their trash out on their front lawn. So everyone was surrounded by their own garbage. If you had lived in Garbage Town you could look out your front door and see most of your waste from the last year, every box from a frozen dinner, all your junk mail, every wrapper from your new toys, and all the tags off of new clothes. While people were used to living with their garbage around their house, they also hated it, so they would leave their front shades drawn, and use their back doors as much as possible.
When you deal with garbage, you just sort of get used to all the problems that come with it. The citizens of Garbage Town would get used to the smell of the trash, when they would go away on vacation they might notice the smell on the way back into town, but really it just smelled like home to them, it wasn’t all that stinky to them. Children got used to not ever playing in their front lawns, as much as they wish they could they wouldn’t ever want to risk slipping in last months casserole or finding a dirty diaper.
As inevitably happens though, garbage would drift. In Garbage Town you would always have some of your neighbor’s garbage in your yard, and your parents would leave some garbage when they would come to visit, and your friends would have some of your garbage in their front lawn too. People were pretty much just used to garbage, their own, their neighbors, their families, the people of Garbage Town were constantly surrounded by garbage.
Different mayors and city managers would come with different plans for dealing with the trash problem, but nobody ever seemed able to offer the right solution. Efforts might render a park or street clean, but the effects would always be short-lived, any garbage picked up would be replaced by new garbage thrown out or blown into the cleaned areas.
One day sickness started to spread throughout Garbage Town. State officials had been warning the people of Garbage Town that it wasn’t good to hold onto their trash. The people had never thought much of the warnings, but it wasn’t long before there was a definitive link between the trash drifting through town and the sickness spreading among the citizens of Garbage Town.
With the motivation of becoming well, the people finally decided to let garbage trucks run the streets of Garbage Town. Weekly collection service started, and the people started carefully hauling or burning the rotting garbage out of their front yards. In the process, the state of the town got worse before any improvement was seen. The front yards that were suddenly clear of garbage had to start growing grass, and in the first days the smoke of trash fires blanketed the town.
Some of the stalwart old pillars of garbage town gave impassioned pleas to the citizens of their community, telling them that they couldn’t live without their garbage. Stories were told of people finding old jewelry they had accidentally thrown away, because it had only been in the front yard. “What would have happened if the garbage had gone to a landfill?” they asked.
But as the garbage disappeared the sickness ebbed away. With sickness going away there was even more motivation to keep up the cleaning effort. There is still garbage in Garbage Town. Sometimes a careless person will drop a wrapper on the street, or occasionally a raccoon will knock a garbage can over, but the stink is gone, children can play in their front lawns now, and the people have opened their front windows. Now the light of day floods into the front rooms of the homes in Garbage Town like never before. People were no longer embarrassed to say they were from Garbage Town.
It’s interesting, that sometimes the hope of a better life isn’t enough to get us to change. Sometimes it takes a crisis to get us to do what we’ve known all along would make life better.