KC needs a citywide effort to stop littering
The Kansas City Star
Carol Charismas talked as she walked the mile from her home near the Kansas City Art Institute to a weekday mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Westport.
One can do that as a retired Kansas City Public Schools teacher. Maybe semi-retired fits better because she tutors 12-year-old Valerie Ator, who walked with Charismas. Along the way, the two picked up trash that others senselessly left on Kansas City’s streets.
“When people take ownership of where they live and they want to keep it clean and nice then their life is more peaceful and pleasant,” Charismas said as we walked west on 43rd Street and then north on Walnut Street.
That’s a winning attitude Kansas Citians should display daily and not expect the city or someone else to clean things up only to please the All-Star Game crowd that’s in town for Tuesday’s slugfest at the K.
Charismas and Valerie started with empty plastic grocery bags, knowing they’d fill every one with trash on their walk. Valerie stops and picks up a napkin, a bottle and drink cup.
Charismas bags a worthless lottery ticket. She gets a lot of them.
“Sometimes I think I just need to get a life,” Charismas said. She sold real estate for about 20 years before moving from Johnson County to midtown to write and publish poetry. “It seems weird that something like this upsets me.”
Litter should upset more people. Kansas City’s streets are filled with it. Main Street ambassadors in red shirts and black pants constantly pick up trash.
But their patrols hardly keep up with those who aren’t concerned about our community’s cleanliness.
“Here’s another scratch off ticket,” Charismas said.
She recalled being verbally blistered by a man in a Ferrari when she confronted him at the QuikTrip store about littering. Littering “has nothing to do with economic status,” Charismas said.
Part is habit. The rest is connected to what she saw in her students. “We live up or down to the expectations that are put on us,” said Charismas, who over one spring break got some students to paint and spruce up her classroom.
She added a portable waterfall and changed the learning environment to one where students wanted to stay to study.
That transformation needs to happen in Kansas City. Less littering could lead to more mowed lawns, more planted flowers and fixed properties. Pride will follow.
It’s happening in parts of the city as people like Charismas import suburban sensibilities into town, which has seen such behavior exit with the flight to the suburbs over the last 60 years. The rising cost of urban sprawl, high fuel prices and our aging population’s desire to downsize and be close to amenities are prompting the move back to town, challenging the litter-and-let-litter habits.
Valerie and Charismas picked up crushed beer and soda cans and a lot of Starbucks, Wendy’s, QuikTrip and other fast-food cups, napkins and bags. Companies brand packaging. On the street it’s just trash.
The two filled one bag in the first four blocks.
“This type of thing perplexes me,” Charismas said. “People think somebody else should take care of this.”
Some people she has confronted have even said their litter creates jobs for the ambassadors. That’s faulty thinking.
“We wouldn’t have to pay people to do it and we could use that money for something else,” Charismas said as Valerie picked up trash in front of a Main Street church.
Charismas blames a lack of respect for our litter problem. People don’t respect themselves, and then they project that emptiness and anger onto others and the environment.
Valerie and Charismas filled a third bag with trash and then walked along 39th Street toward Broadway. Charismas cautioned Valerie to leave a lot of the trash along 39th Street on the ground. There is just too much.
Before she and Valerie entered the church to pray, Charismas said she would like to see Mayor Sly James lead a citywide, civic pride campaign to end littering in our town.
It would be low-cost and the right thing to do. Instant results are possible, and the cleanup could lead to other ways to make and keep Kansas City beautiful.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid call 816-234-4723 or send email to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.