Another Voice: Conjuring happiness by the bagful

From crappiness, happiness!

Does seeing abandoned dog poop bags make your blood boil? It used to make me justifiably angry, too. I would rant to my friends about it, going on and on about how angry dog poop bags make me. By the time I was done ranting, they were angry, too. Anger shared.

Then, something wonderful happened, completely reversing my crappy attitude. I was hiking with my adult son on the beautiful Tamanawas Falls trail south of Parkdale. Within feet of the trailhead, I spotted an old, abandoned dog poop bag. I started griping about it to my son. I told him how angry it made me that dog owners pick their dog poop up in little bags, but instead of putting it in their backpack to make sure they carry it out, they leave it on the trail and forget it. I was on a pretty good ranting roll when my son, who is far wiser than his mom, interrupted me. “Mom, I’d like to walk silently for a few minutes and think about how to solve this.”

“FINE!” I grumpily consented.

After a few minutes of meditative walking, he said, “I’m ready to talk. I think I have an idea we might try.

“Let me make sure I’ve got this right. A dog owner picks up their dog’s poop, ties it in a bag, and leaves it by the side of the trail, fully intending to pick it up on their way back. But something happens and they don’t. And then you, and probably a lot of other people, see these poop bags and feel angry at the forgetful dog owners. All these abandoned dog poop bags are increasing the amount of anger in the world, which is bad. But, Mom, I think there’s an opportunity here. You and I could decrease the amount of anger in the world simply by picking up dog poop bags and throwing them in the garbage. So many people would be spared their anger. The total amount of happiness in the world would increase.”

You might think this idea might make me even more angry, and you might be right. I realize I come across as the angry person in this story. It’s not fair to have to take care of someone else’s crap! But I gave his proposal a minute to sink in, and decided it was worth trying. So we did. On the way back down the trail, we picked up every dog poop bag. Tossing them in the garbage can at the trailhead, I felt a sense of freedom and relief. I celebrated removing seven angry dog poop bags from the world, saving myself and countless unknown others from anger. Honestly, I felt happy!

Two weeks later, back at Tamanawas Falls, there were several dog poop bags on the trail. I had brought my own bag for just this possibility. Every time I picked up a poop bag, I felt a warm inner glow of happiness. Back at the trailhead, tossing them into the garbage can, I knew I was reducing the amount of anger in the world. Bliss!

Now, when I see a bag beside the trail, instead of thinking, “Yuck! I hate dealing with other people’s crap!” and being angry, I think, “Great! Another opportunity to change the world, one bag at a time!” Sometimes I even feel a little disappointed when I go hiking and there aren’t any bags to pick up.

Dear reader, I am a generous person, which is why I am sharing this enlightened practice with you. You, too, can transform your own crappy attitude and disappointment with others into a deep sublime happiness for yourself, making your world a more joy filled place for you — and those forgetful others. Stow a plastic bag or two in your backpack. The extra layer of protection makes it safer to put someone else’s crap in your pack, quite literally.

C’mon! Let’s start a dog poop movement! There are abundant forgotten dog poop bags out there on the trails. Plenty for all of us. Little bags of stinky happiness. Join me, and set yourself free.

Heidi Venture is a community building consultant who helps nonprofits expand their impact and helps individuals learn to communicate across the political divide. The funniest parts of this article, and all the puns, were added by her cousin, M. Alton.

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