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The Green Lady of Guilford

By Nick Chasse

It all started when I was about four years old. One morning, I sat groggily in my mother’s car, having accompanied her as she drove my brother to the bus stop at the end of our road. Looking out the window, I noticed a woman walking along the side of the street and, while it was not uncommon to see a stray jogger or cyclist that early in the day, something about this woman stood out to me.  It wasn’t anything about her appearance that I found particularly peculiar,  but rather what she was carrying. In the woman’s hand, she carried a bag; not a purse or handbag, but a shopping bag. 

“Who is that?” I asked my mother, “and what is she doing with a shopping bag?”
“She’s picking up trash,” my mother responded, going on to explain that, each morning, this mystery woman would walk around town picking up any stray trash or litter that she might come across. And for many years, that was it; I did not know this woman’s name, only referring to her as, 'the lady who picks up trash.'

As I grew older, so too did my curiosity; what was this woman’s name? Why was she picking up trash? Was there some deeper meaning behind it, or did she simply enjoy keeping our streets clean? Although I accepted that I may never learn the answers to these questions, I figured that, at the minimum, I wanted to be able to place a name to the face. No, not wanted; needed.
Eventually I learned her name to be Ruth — Ruth Brooks. Not only that, but I was actually fortunate enough to be able to accompany Ms. Brooks on one of her daily walks recently 

so that she could provide some of the answers that alluded me, as well as to express my own gratitude for her environmental contributions.

I discovered that every morning for the past 24 years, she has walked an average of three miles a day, following one of six different routes around the downtown area picking up trash. Before retiring, Ruth would wake up even earlier, at 4:00 in the morning, to ensure that she had just enough time to complete her daily walk prior to beginning her work day. In the past, she had worked as both a social worker, as well as a chaplain at a psychiatric hospital. When asked why she began cleaning up the streets, Ruth responded that she found this daily ritual to be “a spiritual act,” and that it was deeply healing for her.

the environment. “We all share only one mother in our lifetime. One. You don’t trash her. And this, this is Mother Earth.”

Despite having maintained this way of living for nearly three decades, Ruth never expected to be noticed for her hard work; the thought simply never occurred to her that passerbys might grow to recognize her.
“This is a sacred space,” she said. “We are one with nature. This is an interdependent relationship.”


We also spoke about other aspects of Ruth’s life. She is an avid baseball fan, never missing a chance to root for her favorite team (the Boston Red Sox). She also loves playing bridge with her friends, making sure to get together to play at least once a month. An astoundingly positive person, when asked if there was anything specific she would like mentioned in this article, Ruth responded that she found it very important to teach young people to care about

So this November, when you’re sitting in your homes reflecting of all you have to be thankful for, be grateful that, of all the mothers one could be given, you were lucky enough to be given Mother Earth. Even more so, be grateful that, of all the communities you could find yourself living in, you were lucky enough to find yourself in one that possesses an individual as dedicated and giving as Ruth Brooks!

The community around this stretch of Route 146
in Guilford is kept clean by Ruth, the 'Green Lady!'

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