Cleaned-Up Attitude

    “Cleaned-Up Attitude,” New Era, Feb. 2004, 46

    Cleaned-Up Attitude

    “Okay, here are the trash bags,” the bishop said. “Let’s get to work.”

    This year for our yearly stake service project we were cleaning up a middle school by our stake center. When we arrived at the school, we saw that the fairly small campus was covered in trash. The wind had blown piles of garbage along a chain link fence. The grass was yellow and dying in patches. Flowers and plants had been planted in an obvious effort to beautify the school, but they had not been maintained, and a field of weeds grew as high as my elbows. The paint in the bathrooms was peeling away from the walls, and spitballs covered the ceiling. I held my nose in disgust as I looked around.

    I started picking up garbage along the fence. “This is gross,” I thought. “Why should I pick up someone else’s mess?” I turned to a girl who was working next to me and said, “I have never seen so much trash before. Yuck!”

    After a few minutes of filling my trash bag, I thought, “It’s so hot out here. My back hurts, and my hands are getting dirty. I’m sure there are germs all over them! Maybe I can paint the bathroom instead. That would be easier, and I could get out of picking up trash.”

    But there were enough volunteers painting already. I walked as slowly as I could back to the hot asphalt near the fence.

    Then, as I looked around, I thought, “If this were my school I would be so happy to know that people were cleaning it. I wonder if the students will be surprised on Monday? I bet they’ve never seen this chain link fence completely free of trash.”

    I began working harder, making sure I picked up every piece of garbage around the fence and all the trash stuck in the links. My dad mowed the field of elbow-high weeds, and I helped trim bushes and paint an exterior wall.

    When we were finished, I looked back at the school and the clean area along the fence and thought, “These students will be so happy!” Then I thought of what I had accomplished and how I had changed. Alma was right: “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

    • Sarah J. Sheranian is a member of the BYU 185th Ward, Brigham Young University Fourth Stake.

    Photography by Welden C. Andersen, posed by models