In the second last week of June, I was walking home after picking up a few groceries from the town centre of the area we live in. When I was just a few hundred yards away from where we live, I noticed a woman – she must be in her late sixties or early seventies – picking up litter from the sides of the road. From underneath parked cars, to the undergrowth of shrubs and bushes, from the pavement…
She had a plastic bag, a litter picker (it is a simple hand held tool for picking up litter) and it looked like she wasn’t employed by the local administration to do so – as in, she wasn’t paid to do this.
I walked a few steps ahead and then, I walked back. To her.
Hello, I said to her, a little hesitant at first. Thank you for picking up the litter.
Hello, she replied.
We started conversing. She asked me about myself; when I told her that I am originally from India, she asked me about the well being of my family and friends.
I learned a bit about her. She was a general physician (a gp) and she had worked in the United Kingdom for most of her working life, and had returned to Ireland a couple of years ago to look after her ageing mother (who had since then died).
And I was right. She was picking up litter not because she was paid to do so or this was a sort of a part-time job for her. She did it because she wanted to.
She was also volunteering at a vaccination center and was training at a national art gallery to be a volunteer for the visitors.
I was so impressed. She was humble and modest; and it particularly struck me that she had no qualms about picking up litter – she did not let her education or work experience of being a doctor come in the way.
It made me think about the value of work, and how when one is retired, and in relatively good health – the number of ways one can offer one’s time, expertise and talent to the community around us.
Before saying goodbye, we exchanged phone numbers. In the last week of June, I received a text from her. Once things are a bit better, we will meet up for a coffee or a visit to the art gallery. I am so looking forward to this. There will be so much to learn from her; so much more to be inspired from.