You feel a brief tinge of guilt every time you hear those two words. “Plastic OK?” Because you know it’s not OK. Using brown paper bags at the grocery store, or even more environmentally friendly reusable canvas bags, would be far more OK. But those plastic bags are so easy to carry, so convenient, and blah, blah, blah. We do what is necessary in our minds to justify our choice, and the guilt fades.

    You feel a brief tinge of guilt every time you hear those two words. “Plastic OK?” Because you know it’s not OK. Using brown paper bags at the grocery store, or even more environmentally friendly reusable canvas bags, would be far more OK. But those plastic bags are so easy to carry, so convenient, and blah, blah, blah. We do what is necessary in our minds to justify our choice, and the guilt fades.

    But, despite their convenience, little plastic grocery bags are, rightly so, the scourge of our society. Our whole planet, really. They blow around and get caught in tree branches and bushes. You can find hundreds and hundreds of square miles of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean, and plastic bags keep most of it anchored together. One could go on and on.

    But what if you could take some of those bags that fill us with dread and find a meaningful reuse for them? What if, say, you could do something with them that helps a struggling veteran who might not have anything but the floor to sleep on, or maybe even the ground outside?

    What if some people found that way to do that good thing with a bunch of bags that helps struggling veterans – say, by being referred to it on Pinterest – and they actually did that good thing with the bags?

    That’s what the Beyond Yellow Ribbon Crookston crew is doing. They’re gathering at the VFW and dividing up duties...cutting off the handles and bottoms of the bags, cutting the plastic into strips, twisting the strips, etc. And then Lynette Young goes home and crochets all of them into mats for veterans to lay on.

    It’s pretty hard to fathom, when you really think about it...taking the time to undertake all of the tedious, time-consuming steps necessary to turn countless plastic grocery bags into rectangular mats for someone to lay on. One 3 foot by 6 foot mat requires around 700 plastic bags to complete, and so far the BYRC people and Young have finished a dozen or so.

    And, last week, there was Young, and Bill and Jamie Cassavant and the rest of the BYRC gang at city hall, presenting a handful of the plastic bag mats to an extremely grateful and mightily impressed Camille Redmann from the Grand Forks Vet Center.

    Yes, there’s a an ongoing discussion that must continue on a much larger problem here: Veterans who for whatever reason can’t make a go of it, and how best to help them out, not just in the short term but over the long haul.

    These plastic-bag mats aren’t a part of that larger solution. They’re a small step, a small gesture – albeit a small gesture that requires an enormous amount of time, effort and caring.

    We should all be mightily impressed.