I traveled with family this past summer to visit extended family in Nebraska whom I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. When one lives in the Pacific Northwest, the culture shock visiting Nebraska is akin to traveling abroad. I noticed there were no Prius’ on the highway, no vegetarian options on the menus and no natural food stores to buy organic groceries. I quickly found myself feeling judgmental and somewhat elitist. Not only was there very little green scenery, but there appeared to be very little “green” activism. I had to snap out of my Eugene “eco-bubble” and realize that not everywhere is like the Pacific NW, but quickly said a prayer of thanks that I live where I do.
One day I went grocery shopping with my mother at the nearest store to our motel room, one of those Supercenter box stores. As I hung my head in shame, mortified that I was about to enter the nemesis of my eco-beliefs, I had two promising thoughts. One, I was far from home and no one would recognize me. Two, I was bringing my re-usable bags; I planned to set a good example for all the fellow shoppers that day.
Once inside, the Universe taught me a lesson or two in riding my “high-horse.” I was surprised and somewhat excited to find several items of organic offerings. Of course, I felt good supporting the organic food movement, even if it was associated with my nemeses. When I get in line to pay, I see the thousands of plastic bags at all the checkout counters and start feeling “weird” about my re-usable bags. I assumed the checker would be annoyed with me because my re-usable bags I was certain would be out of the norm and probably cause her some extra work.
However, to my delight, the woman was thrilled to see that I had brought my bags in and told me all about her own re-usable bags that she takes everywhere and uses. We had a fabulous cross-cultural exchange and I left the store filled with hope, a huge smile across my face and perhaps a little ashamed of myself and all my preconceived notions. Lessons learned; don’t jump to conclusions, don’t be judgmental, get off the “I’m better than all of you bandwagon,” and be patient with those around you.
It’s easy to become an elitist when you are blessed to live in the eco-conscious belt of the northwest, but let’s extend our passion to all surroundings, and not embarrass ourselves when traveling!
Check out this fabulous mockumentary on the “Life of the Plastic Bag,” done by Healthebay.org