Gym equipment, that is.

Look closely at the picture up there. Notice something out of place? I did, too!

You wouldn’t dare do that, would you?

I’ve never, not once in my life, seen someone take gum out of their mouth and stick it somewhere, anywhere, besides the trash (or paper destined for the trash). Not behind an ear, not under a table, and definitely not on a stationary bike.

Sticking used gum on gym equipment is now at the top of my “thou shalt not” list for the gym. It’s right up there with not cleaning up your own sweat, not leaving dumbbells everywhere, and not curling in front of the weight racks.  These are things we learned in kindergarten. Well, maybe not the weight rack one, but it’s in the same spirit as not hogging the crayon box.

Share. Everything has its place. Things last longer when we take care of them. Ask permission to use things that don’t belong to you. … It’s simple environmental awareness.

I really wanted to walk away from the gum. I didn’t put it there, why should I take care of it?

Because it’s one of those effortless acts, like smiling at the gym (HERE’s why) and speaking to strangers (WHY), that will leave the world better than we found it. That’s what my great grandmother Mama Cook used to say, with her long braided hair twisted tight in a ball at the nape of her neck.  She never once, in all her days, set foot in the type of “fitness club” we now try to frequent every day. But I swear it was her spirit that compelled me to grab the paper towel and pry the gum off the bike next to mine.

Take care of it, whether it’s yours or not.

Mama Cook would say that goes for all nouns — people, places, things and ideas. Whether they’re yours or not, take care of them.


Jenny Pruitt Cleveland is a Content Creator in Nashville, Tenn. She swims, bikes, and runs a lot. In former lives she’s been a middle school teacher, magazine reporter and editor, cycling tour guide, and underwater photographer.