“If you think globally, you become filled with gloom. But if you take a little piece of this whole picture: ‘my piece, our piece, this is what I can do here, I’m making a difference. And hey… wow, they’re making a difference over there, and so are they’. Gradually, the pieces get filled in and the world is a better place… because of you.”
April has flown by and we are already in the first week of May! The weather is finally feeling like Spring, and I couldn’t be loving it more.
Let me catch you up a little as to what I’ve been up to. I’ll skip right to one of the highlights: On the last Friday of the month, April 29, I had the honour of hearing Chad Pregracke present at the Burton Cummings theatre. You might have heard of him? He was CNN’s 2013 Hero of The Year. His story is inspiring.
Lately, with all the terrible news we hear around us, I had been feeling a bit discouraged with regards to the state of our planet. But this month has brought me uplifting lessons that have shifted my perspective and left me feeling revitalized. Listening to his presentation was one of those experiences.
Chad’s story reminded me that we might not be able to solve all of the world’s problems, but each of us can play a part in making a small, positive difference around us. It adds up.
This is CNN’s report. It’s quick – just over 2 minutes long:
Chad grew up by the Mississippi River. As a young man he spent summers diving for mussel shells to pay his way through college. He described how he could hardly see anything underwater because it was so murky, but he was surrounded by sounds – much like we hear the birds when we are in our backyards, but it was the sound of fishes instead. He realized the river was full of life, but because most people did not hear or experience this underwater world, they could ignore it… and treat the river like a dumping ground.
“This is a problem that people created, but it’s a problem that people can fix.”
~ Chad Pregracke
As he spent countless hours both around and under the water while growing up, he started to notice more and more garbage. In the presentation I saw, he showed us pictures that he had taken before all of the clean-ups began. Those pictures actually made the audience gasp. They were unbelievable. Or, as he said, “It’s believable. The proof is right there. What it is, is unacceptable.” At the age of 17, when he saw the filth that was contaminating the Mississippi River, he began to look for support to clean it up.
“Wherever you are, no matter if there’s a stream, a creek, a lake, whatever, that needs to be cleaned up, you can do it. Just organize it and do it.”
~ Chad Pregracke
For 4 years Chad tried without success to get some financial support. He persevered, and in 1997 he finally obtained a grant from Alcoa. It was just enough to get started, so he was doing the work for free (and his work continues as non-profit). He began cleaning up the river by himself, pulling 45 000 pounds of trash out of it by the end of that first year. As he said, “People made this mess one piece of garbage at a time, we can clean it up that way, too”.
“People made this mess one piece of garbage at a time, we can clean it up that way, too.”
~ Chad Pregracke
As people saw him out there working, they were inspired to join him. 20 years later, he has worked side by side with 95 000 volunteers to clear the Mississippi River of it’s many mountains (literally) of garbage. The river landscape looks beautiful once again, and 90% of what is pulled out gets recycled.
Chad and the many volunteers continue their work, and have extended their efforts to include other rivers. Because of these clean-ups, people have become more aware and more careful about keeping the garbage out of the river in the first place.
The thing that really struck me during the presentation was that Chad is just a down-to-earth, regular human being. He saw something that was wrong, and decided to make it right. When he started, he was just one person picking some garbage out of the river, by himself, on a boat.
Chad Pregracke is a powerful reminder that we don’t have to wait. We can act today. I loved his take away message: Look around you, and decide what you care about, and start doing something, no matter how small.
Every little action counts – every little effort, and every act of kindness. If each of us takes a small action, it adds up to significant change.
My son had a funny take on it. He said, “Yeah, you know how people can nickel and dime themselves to death? Well, I guess the opposite can be true, too, right? You can nickel and dime yourself to a better world”. He always makes me laugh with his unexpected, 12 year old wisdom.
As Chad said, “I started when I was 17. You are never too young to start and to make a difference”. So true, and I would add that you are never too old either.
“People are always saying that the youth is the future. Yes, no doubt, but more importantly, they are also the present. You can do something now, you don’t have to wait for some point in the distant future.”
~ Chad Pregracke
Today, I am signing off with this sweet medley. Have you heard it before? It’s played on the ukulele by the late “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’Ole, who is among the most beloved and celebrated Hawaiian performers. I fell in love with this medley from the first time I heard it. For me, it’s a hopeful song; a gentle celebration and reminder that it’s a wonderful world, indeed. Treat yourself to a listen.
Here are some other short videos that you might enjoy watching:
Thanks so much for the visit! If you’d like to receive my latest posts, please feel free to subscribe (See the sidebar menu). Cheers!