There is a pervasive problem all around the Lake Gaston region. I hear about it at many of the meetings I attend in all five counties around Lake Gaston. I read about it in the newspaper and on social media. Recently, I was confronted by it through an anonymous letter received in the mail.

Let me stress that I do not now, nor will I ever, agree with anonymous letters. I firmly adhere to newspaper policies that unsigned or anonymous letters to the editor will not be printed. If you feel strongly enough about a subject to form a very clear opinion and to write a letter, then you should own it. There are many times when people may not agree with an opinion of mine, and although I will listen to and consider differing opinions, I will still own my original opinion, even if I choose to change my mind. I do my best to keep my personal opinions, which are rarely shared except among family and friends, separate from my work opinions. It is my job and that of the Chamber’s Board of Directors to best represent the concerns and interests of our members.

I was honestly very surprised to find a letter with no return address in my mail. This letter was also sent to two government agencies and a local business. Perhaps I have watched too many action movies, but in these times, I don’t believe we can be too careful with unidentified mail or packages, so I very nearly didn’t open the letter. When I did decide to open the letter and found that it was unsigned, I was extremely disappointed. I reiterate that we must be willing to stand behind our opinions. We have freedom of speech; thus, we should exercise it. We should always be polite and respectful (nothing will shut me down faster than someone raising his or her voice or being rude), but if we own our opinions, people are more likely to listen.

If the letter’s author reads this column, I am in no way shaming you, but I am standing on my soapbox. My advice is to own your opinion and to use respectful language in the presentation of that opinion. I went against my personal policy this time to open this letter, but I will not do it again. I appreciate and value being informed of issues, so I would hate to put someone’s voice in the trash because they did not sign a letter. Okay, I’m stepping down from my soapbox now. The lecture is over.

Once I read the letter, I found I agreed with the primary issue – unsightly litter. I agree with the statement made that there is no excuse for a person throwing…trash out of a moving vehicle. I also agree with the statement that was directly connected to the Chamber that we “would benefit from presenting Lake Gaston as a community who cares about the area we live in.” We, as the Chamber, do our best to put our money where our mouths are and constantly strive to work to make Lake Gaston the best region it can be and to put our best foot forward to residents, second home owners, visitors and businesses. In fact, speaking to the litter issue, you will often find me in the ditch in front of our office picking up cans and trash, even once an entire contractor trash bag of wet insulation. Believe me, I feel the frustration.

The Lake Gaston Association offers a yearly clean-up day in June, and while I greatly appreciate that effort, I agree that even more needs to be done to address the problem. I pledge that the Chamber will formulate a plan for a multi-pronged, multi-agency approach to litter around Lake Gaston, instead of just handling the litter in our own yard. I had hoped that we would lead by example, but apparently, we are going to have to be more tactical. If everyone who read this article would begin the process by helping in their own yards, neighborhoods, businesses and churches, we’d have an amazing start!