Enable is a very ambiguous word. It can mean to make able; to provide with capability and power. Contrastingly, it can also mean to support dysfunctional behavior. No wonder English is such a difficult language to learn. But it doesn’t have to be, at least in this case. Our streets are littered with a reason to emphasize the positive definition of enable and marginalize the negative one.
Exhibit one: panhandlers. With one hand out and the other holding up a cardboard plea for aid, these unfortunate fixtures of alleys, intersections and off-ramps proliferate and survive on the enabling, generosity of others.
Could this stereotyped “subculture” be rebranded: possibly by way of a humble social experiment, an attempt to reward them for being personally accountable and socially responsible?
IT’S IN THE BAG
Local nonprofits could make available to willing participants large plastic bags with instructions to collect roadside litter and then redeem the full bags for healthy food and new bags. The bags could be brightly colored fluorescent green with a silk-screened “Pick Me Up” label. This would readily identify the sanctioned “wranglers,” who would be more likely to earn direct contributions from appreciative passersby, as well as indirect contributions through donations to the facilitating nonprofits.
Besides the environmental benefits, the initiative would invest the litter wranglers with the sense of purpose and accomplishment.