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Real Answers™
Copyright: ©2008 Jill Darling
720 words


By: Jill Darling


Neighbors will help you or hound you if you don’t comply and the mayor will pay an unkindly visit to your home if you don’t obey the unspoken rules.

On our trip to Germany, we did a lot of walking including a volks march (a mapped-out walk) through villages, neighborhoods and woods. In residential areas, stucco homes with rust-colored tiled roofs and balconies were adorned by lush lawns, lilac bushes, pansies and tulips. What struck us most were the absence of toys, bicycles and junk strewn about. We didn’t see any cans or bottles along the road or in the woods.

We have anti-litter campaigns, trash cans galore in public places, crews collecting roadside debris and littering fines, but America continues to be ravaged by litter.

I lived in Germany in the mid-60s and again from 1968 to 1972, when my dad was stationed there in the Army. It was the same then. Everything -- streets, neighborhoods, countryside was tidy and clean. There were no papers in the gutters, no cigarette butts on the sidewalks, no beer cans or McDonald’s bags cluttering the highways and no appliances and old tires dumped in the woods. The scenery in Germany is postcard-perfect, a cover shot for Country magazine or Home & Garden.

What’s their secret?

“Pride and respect,” said Kriemhild Chaffee, a former German citizen who lives in Towanda, Pennsylvania. This sense of pride in one’s domain is “taught very early and kept up” throughout life, she said. ”The home is always neat and the bed is made in the morning before we leave the house. Our parents and grandparents teach us that before we even go to school.”

”Most German children respect older people -- grandparents or neighbors -- and value what they say,” Chaffee said. “A neighbor lady used to babysit for us and if she said to pick up a piece of paper, you better believe, we picked it up”

Chaffee said children play with toys and bikes during the day, but they automatically put things away at night. The discipline of caring for possessions and the environment is culturally-driven, reinforced in school and the community. Every Saturday, Germans sweep the sidewalks in front of their homes or businesses, and street sweepers are omnipresent. Garbage is collected early in the morning, and children bring in the empty cans before school.

It is socially unacceptable to have messy, dirty surroundings. Neighbors pitch in to help those who are elderly, sick or disabled with their weekly cleaning chores. If resisters don’t comply, the “Burgermeister” (mayor) pays them a visit to rectify the problem.

 The first Earth Day began in our country in 1970 as a concerted effort to take back the wasteland that American became, clean it up and take care of our environment. We’ve come a long way in some areas, but it’s been 37 years. Why don‘t we get it? I believe it has to do with honor and respect, which generate a sense of pride.

God created a beautiful place for us to enjoy. “. . .God planted a garden, . . . and there He put the man (Adam) whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food “and gave it to him to” tend and keep it”  (Genesis 2:8-9;15).

All of us, individuals and families are responsible for how we regard what has been given to us to care for: our home and our surroundings. We pass that responsibility on to our children, and it becomes a way of life for subsequent generations.

During our home schooling years, I’d take our sons out in spring and summer with a tractor and wagon to collect garbage along the country dirt road on which we live. We dubbed ourselves “Junk Busters,” filling bag after bag with cans, bottles and fast-food waste. After a few days, the entire road was cleaned up. But it didn’t last. Before long, our tree-lined road was littered once again.

Let’s take some tips from the litter-free Germans, and from the Bible. Let’s raise our own standards, train our children early and, as a country, take pride in our land by being good stewards and honoring the creation God gave us to tend.


"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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