An advertisement for a writer's retreat.

During a weekend work retreat, I holed up in a modest condo at Myrtle Beach and devoted most of my waking hours to getting more than one lecture ahead of my students.

The remainder of the time each day was spent raiding the refrigerator and taking a brisk two or three mile walk on the beach. The weather was nice, and the walking was fine. I couldn’t help but notice, though, that some folks seem to think of the beach in the same way they think of the side of the road, imagining it to be a large trash receptacle.

I decided to work a “random act of kindness” into my walk each day, and took along a plastic bag to collect garbage along the way. I noticed one other man dragging a sandy plastic bag from the water’s edge, but his expression suggested he was really mad about it. I was determined to make it a joyful act, so I consciously smiled every time I picked up some bit of human-spawned detritus.

I smiled a lot.

On Sunday afternoon I collected a half dozen grungy tennis balls, three styrofoam coffee cups, an assortment of paper towels and baby wipes, three pages from a newspaper, several yucky plastic bags, and a few candy wrappers to go with a handful of cigarette butts and random bits of plastic, mostly nose cones or fins from fireworks fired over the ocean.

Given that my walk was interrupted by periodic pick-up pauses, I’m not sure if I got the same cardiac benefit as usual, but I’m certain that it did my heart good.

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