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SOLVE clean-up: Downtown Portland just a start

What up, y’all? It’s me, ya boy, PaperCutter #82.

Picking up trash on the streets of Portland was not how I’d planned to spend my 38th birthday… But I also didn’t think it’d be my second birthday celebrated during a global pandemic. Yet those are the facts.

The truth is agreeing to collect trash on my birthday was something a commendable version of myself acceded to. The less praiseworthy and (to be quite honest) more day-to-day version of Employee #82 dreaded the occasion with increasing alarm.

SOLVE: taking care of Oregon

More recently, I volunteered to pick up trash in downtown Portland for the third time this year.

Why? I’m glad you asked.

I’ll start by actually thanking SOLVE, the organization whose mission is to unite Oregonians by improving our environment and building a legacy of stewardship. Litter collection in the city is only one manifestation of what SOLVE encourages. Some loyal readers are familiar with PaperCut’s first SOLVE outing earlier this year.

That introductory outing took place the same day as my above-indicated birthday. As PaperCutter Tanner mentioned in the aforementioned blog, it was nice to see colleagues we hadn’t seen without the aid of video conferencing software in over a year. Also, meeting the pandemic’s new hires in person was chicken soup for the corporate soul.

Speaking of true inspirational stories about ordinary people’s lives, while my first experience litter-picking with SOLVE didn’t turn me into David Sedaris, I earned a new sense of doing something right for Portland.

After all, it’s the city where I’ve lived since showing up with the shirt on my back when not old enough to drink. Portland and I have been through a lot together, and gathering trash feels like the least I could do to give back to the community.

Picking up where systemic problems left off

On a beautiful September morning, this spirit of doing something worthy had my colleagues and me looking forward to participating in SOLVE’s recent anniversary - celebrating one year of monthly downtown Portland cleanup days.

Even the mayor showed up for the cameras. While on the subject of the media, a lovely lady and her cameraman from KPTV asked to have a few words with me. I love the sound of my voice - ask my long-suffering girlfriend - so of course, I agreed to speak with the journalist. Most of what I mentioned here is what she and I covered. However, when asked about the weirdest thing I collected, I almost wish I could claim another PaperCutter’s story: a human tooth, root and all. 😳

In closing, when I saw the broadcast the next day, I wish they hadn’t left my favorite bit on the cutting room floor: I mentioned to the reporter that picking up trash is a great start and a worthy contribution to making downtown more pleasant.

Still, I hope one day soon, Portlanders can come together with the same enthusiasm to tackle the systemic problems that necessitate events like SOLVE’s monthly cleanups. I know at least myself and a few PaperCutters feel empowered to help.

If you’re reading this in Portland, I hope you do too.