Lifestyle

Finding common ground in litter fixation

When my publisher approached me recently for endorsements toward my new book, “Rhymes and Reasons,” I had a challenge. I had to think of who I could ask to write a quote for the back cover. Since the book is a collection of poetic reflections on current events, name recognition was not enough. I wanted someone who breathed the atmosphere of popular culture.

I wanted someone who appreciated the artistic nature of the English language. Better yet, I wanted someone who valued the importance of faith while making sense of life. It didn’t take me long to realize that the person who met those requirements was a friend living on Mercer Island. Gratefully, Michael Medved was most willing to write a testimonial for my book.

I’d known of Michael Medved’s reputation as a film critic during the years when our family lived in the Midwest. What I didn’t know was the place he called home. When a colleague in Chicago learned where our family was moving, he exclaimed, “Mercer Island? I think Michael Medved lives there!”

Never being labeled an introvert, I e-mailed Michael and asked if he would be willing to help me critique the religious landscape of greater Seattle. He invited me to sit in on one of his daily radio broadcasts once I’d moved to the Island. Following the three-hour show at the Lake Union Studio, we talked privately about the unique culture of the Pacific Northwest. Thus began an unlikely friendship between an Evangelical Christian and an Orthodox Jew.

Over the past two and a half years, that friendship has continued to grow. Wendy and I have been guests in the Medved home for dinner. Michael and I have enjoyed wine and cheese while discussing theology. He has attended worship services at Mercer Island Covenant Church, and I have attended Shabbat morning services at Congregation Shevet Achim. He has addressed one of our adult classes on the topic of redemptive themes and theological images in Hollywood films. I, in turn, have submitted original poetry to him that relates to some of the topics on his show.

Don’t get me wrong. Michael and I don’t see eye-to-eye on several theological points that each of us view as critical to our faith perspective. Neither do we agree on all things political. He is more conservative on some issues than I am and more liberal on others. But this year, when red states and blue states dominate the electoral spectrum, I find comfort in knowing that we both value the sacredness of God’s green earth.

While most people are capable of color blindness in order to agree to disagree about candidates or policies, there are some issues that are just too black and white to bend on. Opposing litter is one of those issues for Michael and me. And for both of us, there is a theological basis to our bias. Both Judaism and Christianity celebrate the inexpressible beauty of creation and acknowledge the responsibility that the Creator has entrusted to us: caring for our world. As the psalmist declares, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1).

In all fairness to my friend, my passion for helping to rid our community of unwanted trash has been fueled by his example. Here is a man who practices what he preaches. I have lost count of how many times I have been driving down Island Crest Way and spotted Michael on an embankment of shrubs or a wooded path, gathering garbage that has been carelessly strewn by thoughtless passersby.

Seeing him at work with his “grabber” has motivated me to “go and do likewise.” It’s my hope that you will follow his example too. Our Island is too beautiful a place to be blemished by Starbucks cups, Subway wrappers or Talking Rain bottles. Start carrying a plastic bag on your walk.

Who knows? You might meet a new friend in the process.

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.

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