The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 16, 2010


A look at the Trash Party

by Betsy Fell

This year marked the 38th Mosquito Trash Party since its inception in 1972, just a few months after the creation of the newspaper. The goal is to spruce up the roadsides while providing an enjoyable and meaningful community event. It is a great family activity – a way for people to help their neighbors and for children to practice community service. Everyone is invited to participate.

Trash Party “regulars” know that each year is different. The hunt for trash in the leaves or by the stone walls can turn up surprises. Beer bottles are trending down, but vodka “nips” are holding steady and this year’s hunt yielded an unusual number of plastic vitamin-water bottles. Baseballs turned up in the swamp across from Spalding Field and there was a hockey puck in the weeds near where the ice rink had been at Kimballs. Hubcaps seem to be made of lighter materials. Fewer cigarette stubs were seen – is it because there are fewer smokers, or because the recent heavy rains washed them away? Previous years finds have included tires, a box spring, and an old furnace.

The weather can be unpredictable in early spring, but a Saturday morning is chosen that hopefully falls after the snowmelt and before the poison ivy leafs out. About a month beforehand, invitations are sent to groups that have helped in the past and announcements are printed in the paper. Groups who pre-register can sign up to clean a specific spot. For instance, scout troops with young children might opt to clean an area away from traffic, such as the library or school grounds, or the parking area at one of the conservation lands.

On the morning of the Trash Party, signs are posted and a table at Center Park is run by members of the board of Carlisle Communications, Inc., the newspaper’s parent organization. People are encouraged to stop by the table to learn which main roads need coverage, pick up free trash bags or a snack.

Last Saturday’s event was organized by Lisa Chaffin, Mollie McPhee Ho and Nancy West. The Mosquito supplied juice and donuts and the coffee was donated by Ferns. Anyone who needed help getting the filled trash bags to the transfer station was encouraged to leave the bags by the road and ask for them to be picked up later by Mosquito volunteers.

How many Trash Parties have you attended? Chaffin reports that between 30 and 40 people stopped by the table on Saturday. There were others who did not check in, but participated by cleaning up the streets near their homes. Still, more people would be helpful and the total is low out of a town population of about 5,000. This year there was a conflict with student performances at the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association (MICCA) Festival in Norwood and efforts will be made to avoid an overlap in the future.

However, for those who are in town, the Trash Party is easy to do, even for those with a busy schedule. People can pick up litter for a few minutes between weekend chores and children’s ballgames, or venture on longer “treasure hunts.” Chaffin said that this year one energetic couple picked up trash along Nowell Farme, River and Skelton Roads as well as the area near the Bedford boat landing. One thing that participants share – they might leave the party a bit grubbier than they started, but they are almost always smiling.

Don’t bully the bully

I do not feel sorry for the young people who are accused of harassing young Phoebe Prince to the point where she took her own life. The systematic cruelty they are said to have dealt the 15-year-old South Hadley girl is abominable.

But I do regret the waste that the media glare and the pending court action will likely make of this tragedy. It is hard to imagine that the public condemnation, however satisfying it might be in the short term for those indignant on Phoebe’s behalf, will teach the bullies a lesson or provide an instructive example for others. The punishments the judicial process will likely mete out will not serve our schools or our society.

Often, when people (especially young ones) are accused, shamed, and punished, they rationalize their actions. Some even come to think of themselves as victims.

So what would serve?

Barbara Coloroso, a widely known expert on bullying who has worked with schools all over the country, says that the only approach that works with those who have bullied is restorative justice, with the perpetrator being held to account, meeting with the target and hearing what that person has experienced. In most restorative processes, the victim, the person who hurt him, and others who support them agree to a plan of action in which the bully repairs or makes up for the harms. Rather than condemning the bully, supporters help her learn about her motives, how to recognize the harm words and deeds can cause, and how not be a bully.

What doesn’t work is trying to find a way to hurt the bully equally. This results in further ill will, shame, and the kind of worldview that set him or her on course as a bully in the first place.

We can tell children it’s wrong to bully, but we can’t convince them that what they do is bullying without holding a sort of mirror up for them. Restorative circles or conferences can be a very powerful way to do that. Research shows that the great majority of those who bully have themselves been belittled, shunned, or hurt. They have been victims. That’s an opening for empathy.

In Carlisle, as everywhere, we have children who are bullied, children who try to dominate those they believe to be weaker in some way, and children who go along, abetting the bullies — this despite anti-bullying programs and many caring adults.

We are fortunate to have a strong restorative justice program in the area that works with police in criminal matters. Communities for Restorative Justice also has people and resources that can help administrators, teachers, and parents interested in learning restorative practices and discipline.

I hope our schools will explore more dialog between children in conflict. We do it in the lower grades with Open Circle, which is good, but not enough. We need to model for children, continuously, how to differ with each other without dissing, how to stand in another’s shoes. It is our best hope for making them safe and for making our future society less contentious, less nasty, less violent. ∆



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