THE BLOG
09/05/2014 09:13 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When You Are Sad, Clean up the Trash

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I've recently been feeling blocked by some sadness in my personal life. I'm a writer, but I needed wordless time to process what was happening, to stop asking "why?" and start accepting reality for what it is.

During this time, the world around me looked ugly, violent, and irredeemable. The news has been terrible of late and I began to feel hopeless. It led me to wonder what can I do? How can I feel happy again, and how can I feel like I can make a difference?

I started by cleaning up trash. I took a few grocery bags and walked along the rural road by my mother's house. At first, I felt angry. How could people do this, just throw stuff away and leave it for others to clean up? What is wrong with people that they feel they have no responsibility to others or to the earth?

But as I picked up what others have discarded and the bags grew heavier, I felt my own burdens begin to lighten. I felt more at peace. I know the key to my own happiness and my role in this life is to serve others with love and humility. It doesn't seem humble to tell you that I want to be humble, but I share this because it was a major turning point for me.

When we are sad, we become so "me-focused." We feel cut off from others and can only see things through our own cracked mirror. We look inward instead of outward. The key for me to break out of this constant loop of sadness and self-pity was to get up and do something and make sure it was something concrete that instantly made a difference.

I walked up one side of the road and back the other. In only a half hour's time, I was able to see a roadway littered with beer cans and cigarette packs and fast food wrappers transformed into a pristine pastoral landscape. I felt reconnected to the earth and reconnected to the people around me, even those who thoughtlessly threw things away they no longer wanted.

If you are feeling sad, please pick up some trash. I guarantee you will end up with a full bag, and more importantly, a full heart.