Doing No Harm In Clarksville

Growing Up Austin

The Keep Austin Beautiful (K.A.B.) organizer for our litter clean up site thanked us for coming. I told him it would be more accurate for me to thank him for allowing us to come. You see, I brought Sparkles and Buttercup. Our goal was to Just Do No Harm.

This was my first attempt to volunteer with my little girls. Until now, I felt like their limited capacities and their sometimes overwhelming needs would make us more of a burden than a help. But Buttercup was three and Sparkles almost five, so when a professional organization I belong to asked members to help clean up litter with K.A.B., it seemed possible. It was just another hike, after all, right? (This was before Sparkles’ hiking strike.) We brought my brother along for backup and showed up at the gathering place, Clarksville Cafe.

At the cafe, the group leader explained that our group had organized a bit late and K.A.B. was out of clean-up sites. They were able to put together this site at the last minute, but it wasn’t one of the city’s neediest areas.

It started normal, as we walked along West Lynn, picking up trash on the sidewalks of local businesses.

Then it got less normal, when we turned into the neighborhood.

The houses in Clarksville were so crazy beautiful, they didn’t even seem real, like maybe we accidentally wandered onto a movie set. The architecture, paint colors, landscaping, deep porches with porch swings all seemed to be the work of artists or at least the artistic director for this movie.  Then there were the houses that had smaller houses in back and even the smaller houses were fancy.

The girls were getting grumpy. They didn’t like walking a fixed route at a fixed pace, to stay with the group. And my brother and I were giggling a little, that somehow, in our good intentions, we ended up cleaning the pretty-darn clean sidewalks of our pretty-darn rich neighbors.

The girls got more grumpy. They started to need assistance in the form of piggy-back rides or rides on my shoulders or being carried the regular way, sometimes for both girls at the same time, which I can still do, but only for short periods of time. Sparkles finally stopped moving at all. We let the group go ahead without us. I saw a park not too far ahead and we stopped there. To our dismay, even the park was clean. So the girls played on the play ground.

Growing Up Austin

I looked at the nearly empty plastic bags in my hands, one for recycling and one for trash. I wondered which impacted the environment more, my one aluminum can and handful of litter, or the plastic bags.

I believe we met our goal of doing no harm. We probably broke even. For my other goal, to begin a habit of volunteering with my girls, we were successful. And, lucky for us, there are two groups in Austin to help us along the way…

#TeamPCSadie (name and link corrected) – A family volunteer group inspired by the book Paper Crown Princess, by local author Amanda Evans. (Check out the book too, it’s a sweet story, with beautiful illustrations and a BIG heart.)

Little Helping Hands – An Austin non-profit that helps families with kids ages 4-12 find family-friendly volunteer opportunities.

Have y’all volunteered with kids under five? What was your experience?