We work on a country estate, which has a nice cafe with outdoor seating. Last week, I ate lunch outside. Also eating al fresco, was a family of six. They were sitting on a nearby picnic bench and children were running around having fun. The kids were playing a game of chase, while their parents and grandparents chatted over lunch. When one child announced that they were bored, his mum suggested that they run around the garden for a bit.
As the children scattered, I was aware of a lady from the family table walking towards me. She was well dressed, probably in her seventies and carrying an empty cardboard cup. The lady furtively looked around, then tossed the cup into one of the shrubs.
I was incensed. Was it too much trouble to put it in the bin? What kind of example was she setting? I did a long, slow blink – thinking the planet really is doomed. I wondered what to do. Pick the cup up and plonk it on the table in front of her? That would show her. Nah, too aggressive. Say something like, ‘Excuse me but you’ve dropped something.’ Too non committal.
I thought best just wait. The lady sat down at the table. At that moment, the children appeared and it became clear what was going on. She had started a game of treasure hunt and the paper cup was the treasure. I watched as the kids gleefully tried to find it.
I was relieved to have not intervened. The scenario reminded me of that advert for The Guardian newspaper where a youth runs down a street and appears to be mugging a man for his briefcase. It’s only when we see the scene from a different angle, that he is, in fact, trying to rescue the man from a falling building.
This moment in the garden was a reminder that sometimes it’s good to stop and make sure you have all the facts, before you jump to conclusions.
I smiled at the situation. The lady had used a brilliantly simple idea to keep the children occupied. Interestingly, the parents didn’t resort to handing their offspring a phone or tablet to play with. Her use of imagination was an inspiration to the kids – and me.
I have no idea how long it took the children to find the cup – I only hope they did – otherwise I am witness to a very elaborate piece of littering.
‘The Guardian’s 1986 points of view advert’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SsccRkLLzU