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“People Are Pigs,” She Said, But I Don’t Think Pigs Would Appreciate the Comparison *

January 30, 2010

Pigs are not that dirty. And they’re smart, strange little creatures. They just need love.
• Shelly Duvall

A keynote speaker at the conference I attended yesterday, a community college president, shared her experience working a custodial shift. “People are pigs,” she said of the task that she and the regular custodian faced as they cleaned the cafeteria. It’s true. I see the messes they leave on my own campus. I also spend time in women’s bathrooms. At least some of the pigs are women. I won’t go into the disgusting details here, but there are things that belong in the toilet and not on the seat or on the floor.

In the classroom, sunflower seeds are one of my least favorite messes. It probably surprises you that sometimes students leave snack detritus behind for someone else to clean up. It surprises me too. In an ideal world, I suppose, no one would eat in classrooms, but many of my students are coming from mornings in public schools and have spent their lunchtime traveling to school. They need to eat. Any student in a class that’s three hours long probably needs a snack to help stay alert, so I’m not for banning food.

I’m a proponent of civility and consideration for others and for the general environment. Custodians are not there to clean up our messes. You’ve heard this lecture many times before if you’ve been in school, and it’s true everywhere. If you’re shopping and you see something on the floor, you could pick it up. If you drop something somewhere, you could pick it up. It doesn’t matter if you made the mess, you could be a part of cleaning it up. This philosophy applies in the classroom or in the world.

F. Scott Fitzgerald describes the Buchanans, a wealthy couple in The Great Gatsby (1925), saying, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” I’m reminded of this when I’m shopping and watch someone pull out all the carefully-stacked whatevers to find the one they want and then leave the others piled haphazardly on the floor. I’m reminded of it on a larger scale when I see what human beings do to their environment.

As you move through the day, think about ways you can make life easier for others rather than leaving messes for someone else to clean up.

Are there any messes, literal or figurative, that you need to clean up?

Clean up your own mess.
• Robert Fulgham

* Pigs wallow in mud to stay cool since they have no sweat glands.

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