It was five years ago when I learned what it truly means to take care of the world around you.
I’d seen a notice about the 2007 annual beach cleanup, and I was planning to clean up Crissy Field. I had my old clothes, my sturdy shoes and my reusable water bottle ready — and I’d somehow convinced my now husband, then my boyfriend, to come along with me.
What I didn’t expect was that Suja would come with us.
Suja, my husband’s friend from college days, had arrived the night before from North Carolina, where she was then a graduate student. I was heart-set on going to the cleanup, so I told our guest to make herself at home and sleep in, and we’d pick her up for brunch once we were done.
But it was nothing doing, she said. She’d come with us.
Come with us? To pick up trash? On a beach in a city that wasn’t her own?
I believed in keeping those beaches — and other parks — usable for my fellow residents. I pick up trash on most hikes or walks in local parks, just because — because I’m there, and the trash is there, and it just makes sense to me. But it’s necessarily something I’d be champing at the bit to do on vacation, per se.
Except that maybe now, after watching Suja, I would be.
Suja came with us that day — not grudgingly, but enthusiastically, laughing at the funny items we found, smiling in the intermittent sunshine, enjoying the beach as she went. It seemed as normal as breathing to her. It’s what we were doing that day, so she was going along. No big deal.
I think we could probably all stand to learn something from that.
This Saturday, Sept. 15, marks the 28th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, a day on which volunteers gather before at 9 a.m. to clean up shorelines around the state. They’ll pick up trash and debris, including cigarette butts, plastic bags and even steering columns — I saw one once — from the edges of bays, rivers and lakes.
In San Francisco, volunteers will convene at 22 sites across the city, from Fort Funston in the southwest to Aquatic Park in the north and all the way over to Candlestick Point in the southeast. They’ll take time out from running, biking, hiking, lounging on the couch or cleaning their own homes to make sure that the beaches we visit are a little bit nicer.
Yes, I’ll be among the volunteers this weekend, but that’s not the point. The point is: You should be among them, too. No, you might not use the beaches every day, or ever — but your neighbors are going out this weekend to do something good, and you can join in.
On Saturday, take a page from Suja’s playbook and step out to do something good for the world around you. Imagine what we could accomplish if we took such a task in her stride.
If you go
Date & time 9 a.m. Sat., Sept. 15
*Arrive early at Ocean Beach to participate in an 8 a.m. yoga session.
Need to know The parks conservancy recommends proper clothing in San Francisco, including closed-toe shoes, layers and hats, as well as sunscreen. Volunteers are also encouraged to “BYO” (bring your own) reusable materials, such as bags, buckets, gloves and water bottles. (Additional supplies will be available.)
Location San Francisco has 22 cleanup locations on the east and west sides of the city. Volunteers are especially needed at the city’s eastern shoreline locations, where 75 percent of debris was picked up during last year’s event. Registration is full at several sites; sign up via the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s website.
Additional details Want to help advertise the event? Find downloadable posters on the parks conservancy’s site.
San Francisco cleanup info
California cleanup info
International cleanup info