A Fine Line

I struggle, nearly every day, to find the right place for the line that divides know-it-all lecturing from leadership. The line that divides aggressive bossiness from simple, open knowledge sharing or intended helpfulness. The line that divides backward-driving anger from world-changing progression and growth.

It’s exhausting.

When my mom needed to be moved north, after my dad died, my brother and sister and I met to clean out our parent’s small home in Florida, pack mom up, and ship her and her remaining stuff back to New England. We cleaned out a lot of history as well as too much junk. I’m sure every family goes through this at some point. Setting aside the inevitable yet still totally unexpected hurtful moments in deciding who gets what, it went fairly smoothly, overall. At one point we all danced in mom’s cleared-out living room: my mom, brother, me, and my 6-year old son. Beautiful silliness. 

There was, at the time, no electronics recycling in Florida, so, as we were hoeing out what we needed to bring to the church thrift store and what needed to be trashed, I made a pile of e-waste that I could bring it home and take to an e-recycler. I didn’t bother anyone else with this, I just did what I knew I could do and placed wires, cords, old phones, small radios, and other items into a pile with a big “save for Jodi” label. I ran some errands for a few hours and came back to a disappeared pile, everything thrown in with the landfill-destined trash and carted off. Someone had decided for me that this was not worth the effort, even though the effort had already been made. 

On a recent trip, a dear friend did nearly the same thing. As we were leaving a vacation weekend cottage, I pulled the paper, cardboard, and plastic recycling from the garbage and bagged it and set it beside the can, not knowing if they do recycling in that part of MA, but trying to make it easy for the cleaning crew to follow through if it was, indeed, a possibility. Also easy for them to toss into the trash if, bummer, recycling could not be accomplished. While I was out at the car, someone had dumped the items out of the paper bag back into the trash, which I saw when I came back in to grab something I left behind. 

I was trying to draw the line with me…and only with me. I made the extra effort, myself. I did not lecture or say “we should do this, why have you not done it” in fact I didn’t even think that way. I simply tried to make it easy for the person in the next phase of action to choose recycling if possible. Kind of like emailing documents. If the recipient chooses to print, they can, and I will not lecture or scold them. I will just do what I can to give them the option, instead of taking away their choice by handing them already printed documents. And when receiving things I will ask for an e-copy because that is what I prefer, and what I feel works best with the resources I manage in my life. 

I politely refuse straws when servers give them to me. I say “no thanks” when I friend gets plastic single use tableware for me (if I’ve remembered my own travel set of metal tableware) and I bring back condiments and napkins I have not used. I carry my own reusable bag. I, someday, may try a cloth handkerchief, but I’m not there, yet. 

And yet people become offended when I do…me. When I change me, when I make the extra effort to move toward what I feel are informed and achievable goals. Are they offended because I have “shown them up”? It’s not my intent. I have two rather simple intents. First, to do better…me, myself, and I. Second, to be and maybe to illustrate the change I seek. I am thrilled if my actions and choices show somebody something that might work for them, that they may not have considered. I accept that it may not work for them, and I accept this without condemning them. 

There are arenas where I can educate more assertively and purposefully and directly challenge people to change, and there are times when I need to be present and be a friend, not a change agent. But there is never a time when I am not me, and sustainability, collaboration, systems thinking…these are all…me. 

I am doing what I can, when I can. I am striving to do so with no judgement attached. Can you do the same, please? Let me be me. 

…so I can be greener,


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