(from (from a summer 2020 online student)
For my secret mission I did a beach cleanup. I am from Jacksonville, FL, therefore the beach has played a very large part in my life. Every year on the morning after Fourth of July I get up at about five a.m. and drive down to the beach with some trash bags. I walk for hours picking up every little piece of trash and non-beach items I can. I know it doesn’t seem like a huge act of kindness or that I am not really helping anyone. And while I may not be directly helping a person or persons I truly believe that I am doing something genuinely good not only for people but for the environment, which in turn greatly affects us human beings. The amount of firework left overs and bottles of all sorts and many other miscellaneous items left behind is almost never ending. By cleaning the beaches I am getting rid of any potential dangers to ocean wildlife as well as any animals or small children on the beach who don’t know what they are getting into. I am also moving this summer so me and my roommate decided that instead of discarding all of our unopened food (since we did not want to lug it to Jacksonville with us), we would pack it all up and take it to a local homeless shelter. I have about six trader Joe's bags full of canned goods and other dry foods waiting to be taken this weekend on our way out of Tallahassee. I chose the beach cleanup because I am very passionate about helping to improve the environment and the lives of people. I also try to pay it forward and help some of the people out there that are struggling to get by, whether it be giving someone a few dollars or in this case sending food to the shelter.I think the biggest thing I have learned over the last few years with beach cleanup is that you may not always get to see how the things you are doing really help anyone. You may not get the gratification or verification that your actions really mean something, thus making it hard sometimes because you don’t believe that your work alone is bettering anyone. And then you realize that by setting aside a few hours of your time to clean the beach does help not only tons of people, but animals and the earth itself. I find this SO important, it is a learning opportunity, being able to give to others without having to have an immediate pat on the shoulder for doing something good. The world has been so busy making history, we forgot to take care of our planet, and without it, what is going to take care of us? It is basically one big cycle, helping the environment helps us! Eliminating some of the pollution from the beach brings us slightly cleaner air, cleaner water, and overall somewhere much more welcoming than a beach filled with trash. Having clean beaches is something most of us take for granted. There are beaches in other countries (ie Haiti) that do not necessarily have the means and luxury of a constant cleanup on their beaches and are dirty and hazardous due to all the plastic and rubbish that washes ashore. Every year there are homeowners that live on the beach that come down to thank me for what I am doing and some even offer to bring down a bottle of water to show their gratitude. As for donating the food to a shelter or sparing a few dollars to someone in need, the biggest lesson for me has been to appreciating what I have and not taking even the smallest things for granted. The feeling you get when you can see it someone's eyes just how grateful they are for something as little as one dollar in quarters is beautiful. Once you start doing it, you can't really stop. I try to put as many of my quarters and one dollar bills I get back when I use cash in a little compartment in my car so that I always have something on hand to give when I see someone who needs it.