A Germaphobe’s Quest This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 25, 2013
The air is filled with smoke, dust, and soot. Cow manure and rotten garbage are scattered everywhere along the roads. Hard to believe a place like this exists? I didn’t believe it either until I went to my homeland of India.

Traveling on the roads of Agra, I saw millions of people walking on the streets, breathing the polluted air. Being a germaphobe, it was really hard for me to be there. Whenever we would eat ice cream, my cousins would just throw the wrappers on the ground since everyone litters. It felt totally wrong to me, and I knew I had to do something.

I started carrying a plastic bag around with me, and instructed my family to put their trash in it whenever we were out. I also put trashcans in all my family’s houses. Even though this didn’t have an effect on the total trash problem in India, I improved the environment of my community; my family members and other residents started to throw their trash in garbage cans instead of on the roads.

When I returned to the United States, I remember sitting in my chemistry class the first day of sophomore year, and learning about the different types of pollution that affect our environment. After viewing statistics that showed how the number of pollutants is ­gradually increasing in the United States, I again felt driven to address the problem.

At least twice a month, I go to the local park to pick up garbage. Even though it is hard and often unpleasant, I know that by doing it I am improving the health of the people and animals in my community. I believe this is one of the greatest gifts I can give back.

When my brother saw what I was doing, he coming too, and by the end of the month, we were picking up at least a bag full of trash every time we went to the park.

I have continued my mission of cleaning up my environment, wherever I go. Despite being a complete germaphobe, the service I put toward improving our community park is something I am proud of and plan to continue.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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