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Russell Hawke of Albany picks up trash along the Willamette River earlier in December. Hawke collects pounds and pounds of garbage as he walks. 

Let us take a moment today to sing the praises of Russell Hawke of Albany, the man featured in Tuesday's newspaper who's taken to walking along the Dave Clark Trail a few times each week, picking up trash along the way.

On his frequent walks, Hawke drags along a wagon with two 5-gallon buckets to collect the trash, and it rarely takes him long to fill up the buckets. So he dumps the garbage in the dumpster by the Senior Center (the city has given him the OK to do this) and then returns home, collecting more garbage along the way. 

Sometimes, he takes his 16-foot boat out on the river for litter patrol. Again (as was the case with RJ Aguilar, the 11-year-old Jefferson lad who frequently dives down to the bottom of the Santiam River for discarded cans; we wrote about him earlier this year), he rarely comes away empty-handed.

It's a good thing, what Hawke is doing for the community. 

The distressing thing is that he has to keep doing it.

It's easy to blame the homeless who might be camping along the riverfront for the accumulation of garbage. And there's no doubt that's a contributing factor.

But it's not just the homeless who are leaving litter behind, not by a long shot.

We don't understand, nor have we ever understood, the impulse among some people to carelessly toss aside a beer can out the window of a car or to dump garbage by the side of the road, to drop a used cigarette butt (or a dozen) on the sidewalk. Maybe this is, by definition, a thoughtless act — an automatic response that occurs without a thought. 

But have these people not looked around to see their surroundings, our beautiful mid-valley, that they besmirch with their thoughtless actions? There's a fundamental disconnect going on there that we don't pretend to understand.

That's part of the reason why we're grateful to people like Russell Hawke and all the others who go out of their way to scoop up a piece of litter or two and place it where it belongs. 

We were struck as well by Hawke's unlikely inspiration: Benjamin Franklin. Hawke told Democrat-Herald reporter Kyle Odegard that he tries to live by Franklin's list of 13 virtues, so we went back to refresh our memory about those.

If you're looking for some new year's resolutions, you could do worse than these as starting points: Franklin preached the benefits of temperance and moderation. He extolled the power of silence ("Avoid trifling conversation"). He talked about order: "Let all your things have their places." He sang the virtues of frugality, of industry, of sincerity, of humility, of chastity. 

Tranquility is listed among his virtues, and Franklin's words here have a very modern sound: "Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."

Franklin talked about justice: "Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."

Franklin's resolutions include one about, well, resolution: "Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve."

And they also include one about, yes, cleanliness: "Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation."

Think of Russell Hawke's frequent excursions along the Dave Clark Trial (typically with his dog, Baloo, along as well) as a slight extension of Franklin's exhortation about cleanliness. 

By his own admission, Franklin often fell short in his efforts to live up to his own virtues. But he also believed there was value in the attempt to live by these tenets (although, to be fair, he would work on only one each week, "leaving all others to their ordinary chance"). 

We get the feeling that Franklin would approve of the work that Hawke is doing, as he cleans up the city he loves, two 5-gallon buckets at a time. And all of this poses a question to consider as the new year dawns: What could you do? (mm)

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Managing Editor