Valley Voices

Being a problem or solution is a personal choice

Signs alert visitors that the parts of the Yosemite National Park are closed on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 due to government shutdown.
Signs alert visitors that the parts of the Yosemite National Park are closed on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 due to government shutdown. Fresno Bee file

“Nothing we do as individuals matters, but it is vitally important to do it anyway.” Gandhi’s Paradox

Sometimes what we do not do as individuals is also vitally important. A case in point is the current state of Yosemite National Park. Right now, it is a mess. According to a recent article in The Fresno Bee, visitors to the park are trashing the place; and because of the current government shutdown, there are not enough park personnel to clean up after them. Sigh. This is why we can’t have nice things.

sharon hart
S.M. Hart Fresno Bee file

A few weeks ago when my husband and I were taking our morning walk, I noticed a young woman running around the track with her dog. The reason she drew my attention was because the place where we walk has a large sign at the entrance stating “No Dogs Allowed.” Thinking that she had somehow missed the very large sign, I informed her that dogs were not allowed inside the facility. She then informed me that her dog was a puppy and that it was OK. Sigh. I could tell it would do no good to bust her chops, so I let the matter be.

The thing is puppies poop as well as dogs, and that’s what her puppy did. Unfortunately, she was too busy exercising to clean up after her nondog, so I did. I think this young woman failed to realize that (1) she is not the exception to the rule, and (2) if enough people think they are the exception to the rule, then we are all in deep puppy poop.

A few months ago, the lottery topped out at 1.5 billion dollars. Think of that! A huge jackpot that was the result of millions of people buying one-dollar lottery tickets — talk about your nickel-and-dime efforts! What if, instead of 1.5 billion dollars, it was 1.5 billion piles of puppy poop or 1.5 billion pieces of trash, or 1.5 billion acts of kindness. It all depends on what individuals choose to do or not do.

Suppose that every visitor to Yosemite brought a large paper bag to the park and cleaned up all the trash in their area. That could be 1.5 billion pieces of trash removed from Yosemite. Then it would not matter about a government shutdown because we the people — who are the government, by the way — would be taking care of the people’s business. I know this is speculation, but I’m always hopeful that we can have nice things.

Bonaro Overstreet wrote: “I am prejudiced beyond debate in favor of my right to choose which side shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.”

I’m all for our ounces, and I am glad that they are stubborn. Stubborn ounces can do great things, but they also can make piles of puppy poop. With our stubborn ounces, we can be a problem, or we can be a solution; it all depends on how exceptional we want to be.

S. M. Hart is a retired high school math teacher living in Kingsburg.