We need more people like Carl W. Barnard Sr., a man I met years ago who lived on my street in St. Louis.
Barnard, who at the time was nearly 70 years of age, was not on any one's board of directors. He was not involved in any grassroots movement fighting against social injustices. As far as I knew, he had not received any awards for outstanding community service.
Basically, all I knew about him was what I saw. Almost every morning Barnard walked through the neighborhood with a paper bag and picked up trash. Mr. Barnard, a retired U.S. Postal Services dispatch driver, faithfully fulfilled an early morning chore by picking up bottles, cans, paper and other debris from the sidewalks and streets.
Mr. Barnard did what he did because he wanted to keep the neighborhood looking fresh. "My wife says I'm nuts; my kids, too," he said while toting a grocery bag full of debris picked up on a recent weekday morning. "All I'm trying to do is to make the neighborhood look nice."
Mr. Barnard didn't seek a pat on the back or praise for being conscientious. He didn't even consider himself a role model. But he did admit that it "makes me feel good" when people did acknowledge his work and say thanks.
But he's not in it for that. Barnard was an example of neighborly concern, of the type of pillars that our communities need - the unsung type. We need more people like Mr. Barnard whose small contributions impact our society in monumental ways.
I remember observing him perform his morning routine as a group of youngsters walked by en route to a nearby elementary school. The kids took notice of what Mr. Barnard was doing. One of the children tossed a candy wrapper to the ground, which immediately caused one of the boy's friends to say, "Don't you see that man trying to clean up?" The youngster, who discarded the paper, picked it up and stuffed it into his pocket. I don't know what the boy did with the wrapper afterwards, but at that moment, a sense of respect for Mr. Barnard's efforts were reaped. Perhaps that child became more conscious of individual responsibility.
We live in a world where so much is grasping - both positive and negative - for our attention. It's no different for children. So it is comforting to know that a small feat such as Mr. Barnard's neighborhood beautification initiative got through the maze and caught the attention of children.
This just demonstrates that the little things we do really count.