Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have a confession. I like things that stink. The smell of a skunk: love it. The smell of gasoline: invigorating. The smell of my own sweat: delicious. However, the smell of trash that is stuck in a culvert marinating along a creek: rank.

Despite my advancing years, I still cannot reconcile littering. Is it really that hard to put trash in a trash receptacle? They’re everywhere. Better yet, put it in a recycling bin. They’re becoming more ubiquitous daily. But just throwing waste on the ground, flicking your cigarette butts down, desecrating your community and poisoning the environment? It’s incomprehensible.

On a chilly Saturday morning, we set out to do something about it. The Mobile Baykeeper organization mobilized (pun most definitely intended) over a hundred volunteers to clean up trash along Three-Mile Creek. As part of the MLK Day of Service, we joined the mayor of Mobile, a US Congressperson, members of People United to Advance the Dream, sororities, and concerned citizens. Wielding trash nabbers like swords, and trash bags like shields, we managed to remove piles of trash, tires, and other detritus from the creek and surrounding areas. All of us clad in bright yellow safety vests, looking like a colony of bees, we worked together to improve the area, the community, the city, and each other.

Things like parks, creeks, and bays are a way for us, as humans, to commune with nature. With our cities, buildings, cars (and vans), and roads, we become more removed from nature’s cycle, we risk taking it for granted, and worse, abusing it. Keeping these natural wonders as part of the fabric of a community is paramount in keeping our own identity as humans. To be out there with so many others of different backgrounds, races, and histories, working to preserve the natural history of a city deeply rooted in our nation’s history, and doing something that benefits not just us, not just the people of Mobile, but hopefully generations to come, was a privilege. We were proud to honor Dr. King and his legacy in this way. We hope it’s part of the dream he envisioned.