A beautiful West Texas morning was in the offing. As I pulled into my regular spot I noticed them.
Ten, fifteen, maybe twenty reddish somethings were scattered around the parking lot. With the winds of spring, my first thought was that some flowering plant had been forced to give up its blossoms and that this was the location they were to be deposited.
But as I opened my door, I noticed that these objects weren’t from flora origins. Indeed these were freshwater crustaceans and cousins to the red lobster — crawfish. And, at least at first glance, they appeared to be recently deceased crawfish.
I made my way into the office, pondering the oddity of crayfish suddenly appearing in semi-arid West Texas. And then I remembered — local social clubs pride themselves on their annual crawfish boils. I became confident that this morning’s sighting was the byproduct of one of those grand events . . . and that our commercial dumpster had been the disposal location of choice for the clean-up crew.
We were expecting visitors that day. So I grabbed a broom and a dust pan, gained the help of Dr. Jerry Strader, and headed back outside to dispose of those tiny beings that had not, for some reason, made it into the dumpster.
The clean-up on the pavement was easy. But then we noticed that an unusually large number had been deposited in the middle of the lawn. A rather confused flock of grackles were strolling around through the heaps, wondering what, if anything, they should do. As Jerry and I began our pick-up operation, it became apparent that those that weren’t in the dumpster had not been boiled. In fact a good number of those still in the lawn were alive and, shall we say, snapping.
We completed our clean-up — including scooping up a couple that had ventured over 100 yards in the direction of the boulevard. I suppose that their homing instincts had directed them toward the nearest bus stop. Before our venture was over, more than 100 crawfish had been recaptured.
Close to mid-morning, our dumpster was already attracting flies and the smell was a bit fishy. I contacted the city and asked if we could get an early visit from the garbage truck. Temperatures were expected to reach over 100 degrees that afternoon. I was assured that they would do the best they could.
By noon, the stench had increased and the fly population was ever larger. Then, in mid-afternoon, the city’s environmental crimes officer was on site.
“You know,” he said, “this is a violation of about three city ordinances. Do you know who the perpetrators are?”
I assured him I didn’t know specifically and he decided not to try to investigate. But he immediately called for a garbage truck.
“Smells like dead fish,” he said.
“Actually, more like dead shellfish,” I corrected. When it became obvious that specificity was not needed for his report, I relented. And he was off to investigate his next environmental crime.
Eventually we learned which social clubs were involved. Nice apologies were received. And, our acceptance of those apologies were returned. In addition, each club offered to come for a service project of our choosing in an effort to compensate us for our time and effort.
“No,” I insisted, “there is no need for you to do anything for us. Just do a better job of clean-up next time — and perhaps pick a different dumpster.”
Yet, one of our social club contacts wrote back again. “Please let us do something for you.”
She had already fulfilled her social contract. She had apologized and had offered to make amends. And even after I had gently refused, she persevered.
I felt her genuineness. I was touched by her tenacity. I was total in my forgiveness. I was blessed to be part of a university community where students own their consequences and are concerned when their actions impact others negatively. It made my day.
This was an “extra mile” moment. And a reminder that extra-mile-paths sometimes traverse tough surroundings. But their final destination is always a place of sweet peace.
Go an extra mile today. Be tenacious in your apologies. Be genuine in your concern. Make someone’s day.
And don’t offer me any crawfish for dinner any time soon.