SARAH HOLLIMON STAGG

Something unusual happened on the front porch of the Crossett Public Library a few Saturdays ago. That’s what seven year old Carter Thornton called it, anyway — “unusual.”  That is where fellow proud Crossett native Rosie Adcock Henry and I met up with Carter to thank him for taking the time to pick up litter out on one of our county roads. 

The happening all started for Rosie and me on Facebook — it’s worth a mention here that Facebook does have a positive side despite its larger use to cause division and spread misinformation — when we both separately noticed a pride  post by Carter’s mom, Morgan Thornton. 

She had posted several pictures of Carter, mid gator-grab, picking up litter. And it wasn’t just one piece to throw  in a nearby trash can.  In these pictures, Carter was lugging a bag he easily could fit his whole body into with the obvious intent to fill it up with other people’s garbage. 

Fighting the urge we so often give in to when it comes to acts of kindness, that urge to not follow through for fear of seeming weird — or in my case, weirder than usual — I messaged Morgan to let her know I would like to reward Carter for his kindness to our community with a Sonic card and a face-to-face thank you. Rosie was on the same mission, but her gift was Keep Arkansas Beautiful T-shirts. We found out that the Thorntons go to the library every Saturday to get new books for the week — how wonderfully smalltown wholesome is that? — and we made a date to meet Carter and give him our tokens of appreciation. 

I literally counted down the days, I was so excited to meet this fellow litter buster. When Saturday arrived, I had to busy myself until our afternoon meet time so the time would feel like it was actually passing. Just like it always does, time did in fact march on and I finally got to let Carter know in person that his trash pick up is a very big deal, making him an even bigger deal. 

It turned out he was excited, too,  so excited that he willingly broke away from picking out new books to read to meet me and Rosie out front. 

With that, three community activists — two experienced ones and one up and coming one — connected.  In the days and weeks that followed, that moment kept popping up in my mind. I think Carter felt and understood the profundity of the moment faster than I did, because as we gave him his gifts, he kind of stammered around until he said, “ Well this is just so unusual!” We adults giggled at the cuteness, but he was right. 

It is easy to grow ungrateful and therefore not see the need to take care of what we have, to just fall into the rut of figuring somebody else will do it. It takes discipline and, I am starting to think, a higher calling to see a need and then naturally move toward answering it. We are not few, but we are not many either. So when the occasion arises for those of us who are willing to do what it takes to take care of our community to connect, we should. Despite any differences, whether they be age — like the trio in this particular story — or ideologies, or favorite foods, or fashion sense or just whatever, we must connect. 

What an appropriate way to go about life, finding those with common positive traits and connecting, looking beyond the surface commonalities like skin color and religion, age and hobbies and connecting on a level where differences can be made. 

Do this today. Be as delightfully unusual as Carter Thornton and dig beneath your surface qualities to find those that will leave this world a better place.  Then expand those qualities by connecting them with other people who share them. 

I want to share a couple of other things about Carter before I leave you for the week. His mom describes him as affectionate and friendly and one who loves to help others. He is homeschooled and in second grade. His favorite subject is science and his hobbies are playing his PlayStation, fishing and camping and doing yard work with his “Jen Jen”. 

He says he picks up trash “because the world needs it, and it’s the right thing to do.”

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