Every spring for the past three years, when Dr. Darryl Haycock thought about running in his neighborhood, he thought about all the garbage he’d see along Breese, Beeler and Sellers roads in Shawnee Township.
“I’ve been seeing it, and it was driving me crazy as I was running down the road,” Haycock said. “When you’re driving, you’re paying attention to other things. When you run, you’re running a lot slower and see more, evidently. It glitters in the sun. It’s just so obnoxious and disgusting.”
All that glitters isn’t gold. Sometimes it’s dumped fast-food containers. Most of the time it’s discarded cans and bottles of alcohol.
He’d had enough. When he planned to walk on a nice evening March 12, he decided to head out with two garbage bags in his car instead and start picking up that nuisance trash.
He underestimated his opponent. He filled up the two bags quickly and had to return several times that weekend. It took seven 55-gallon bags and 15 33-gallon bags along a three-mile route to pick up all that stuff people ignorantly tossed alongside the road.
Haycock’s story spread on social media since then. He shared a photo and challenged other runners to pick up the trash along their regular routes. He was happy to leave it at that until I caught up with him Wednesday by phone to talk about the trouble with trash.
He laughed when asked about becoming a poster child for litter cleanup. He’s better known for other things. After all, he opened Haycock Foot and Ankle Center in 2006 and has worked on podiatric, orthopedic and foot and ankle surgeries since 1998.
Then he recalled an incident with his father as a child growing up in Lander, Wyoming.
“I remember distinctly one day my dad and I were driving down a road,” he said. “We stopped to get something from a fast-food place, and I crumpled up the bag and threw it out the window. My dad stopped the car and asked what I was doing. I told him it would just dissolve and go away. He said, ‘But if everyone does that, it won’t. It’ll just accumulate.’”
He also thinks about an iconic advertising campaign from the 1970s, of a weeping Native American looking at trash.
“My hope is if anyone sees that I’m a physician in the community, and I’m out in the community picking up trash, it’s OK for them to do that too,” Haycock said.
Haycock issued a challenge to others to clean up their little part of the world and try to keep it that way. Litterers already irked him by Tuesday.
“It did break my heart when I was running Tuesday morning over on Beeler Road, out in the country,” he said. “Even in the dark I could see someone had thrown a box from beer out of the side of the road, and some beer cans were already on the side of the road. It’s disappointing. People are just so flagrant about it.”
Still, he sees hope for all of us, if we all just do the little bit that we can.
“These are the gateways to our city,” he said. “Do we want people to drive in the community and city and see all that trash? It does not speak well of what we are; it does not say good thing of who we are.”
He’s not asking for much, just that we leave the world a little better than we found it.
“If everyone would do that,” he said, “it would make a difference, and the world would be a little bit better.”