Last weekend, I was accosted by an angry do-gooder.
It was a shock, of course, because most do-gooders have smiles on their faces or at least in their hearts, and they approach their volunteer tasks with a calm, happy sort of vigilance. These folks simply show up where they are needed and quietly do what needs to be done — whether it's grading spelling tests, playing checkers, serving meals or picking up trash — because they want to give of themselves. Because it's enough to make a small difference in their corner of a troubled universe.
So it is incongruous, really, to come across a highly peeved and agitated philanthropist.
And yet these individuals do exist, and I had proof last weekend when my husband and I went on an early morning "training" walk with our dog, Moose.
But first, let me explain why we are going on lengthy training walks with Moose: We absolutely must teach him not to pull when on his leash. The need for this skill was underscored when, a couple of weeks ago, we took Moose to represent "Pets on Wheels" at an outdoor event. I had his leash wrapped around my hand and was walking him around, extolling the benefits of the program, when suddenly Moose apparently spied or sniffed the dog love of his life in the demonstration ring and took off.
All I know is that I was turned sharply about-face by my right hand and then dragged across the vast courtyard, as if I were the feckless main character in a movie trailer for an upcoming Disney comedy, " Goofy Gal and Her Goldendoodle." Moose bolted right under a display table, tipping it over, and only my right hand and forearm stopped his 75 pounds of single-minded love. I have the bruises of a prizefighter still.
Many strangers approached me immediately to inquire about my injuries, wearing the odd, scrunched-up expressions of those desperately trying not to laugh. My good friend, Nek Neednul — whose name is so entertaining spelled backward for privacy that I might consider using it from now on — spared me the solicitous platitudes and simply said, "I can't wait to read about this one, Janet!"
So now that Nek and the rest of you have read about it, I can get back to the main focus, which is my encounter with an angry do-gooder on my weekend dog-training walk.
As my husband and I were rounding a bend with Moose, we spied an individual on the other side of the street with his hands full. We weren't sure what he was carrying, but it looked like a hodgepodge of stuff.
"Good morning!" we chorused.
"I PICKED UP ALL THIS TRASH!" he shouted back to us.
"Wow!" I said.
"I DO IT EVERY MORNING!" he yelled.
"That's really great of you," my husband commented. By this time, we were well within earshot, yet the trash vigilante continued to shout.
"YOU TWO SHOULD PICK UP TRASH WHEN YOU'RE WALKING YOUR DOG!" he shouted back in an accusatory tone. "JUST BRING ANOTHER BAG WITH YOU."
"OKAY!" I shouted back. Increasingly uneasy about how this encounter was going, I thought it wise to mirror his level of emotion. "WE SURE WILL!"
"YOU REALLY SHOULD!" he said. I guess I was not entirely convincing.
By this time we had passed the Christopher Walken of Trash Talkin', but we heard him shriek at an approaching runner, "YOU KNOW, YOU CAN STILL PICK UP TRASH WHEN YOU'RE JOGGING!"
Thanks to the angry do-gooder, we can now envision all sorts of situations when it might be appropriate to gather neighborhood trash. When you're walking your baby in a stroller or a wagon. When you're riding your bicycle.
But especially when you spy the angry do-gooder approaching. Quick, pick up something, anything.