Finding Kindness, Not Trash
Once a month on a Friday in our neighborhood, there is a bulk pick-up day. This is when residents put out any items that they do not want anymore but don’t fit in the trash cans.
Neighborhood residents usually begin putting these unwanted items out Wednesday evening, so it is common to see people driving up and down the streets looking for something they find valuable amongst the bulk.
Back home as a child, I saw someone going through our trash one day, and I commented negatively about that to my mom. She gently corrected me by saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Following that wise idiom, she took me to a thrift store and encouraged me to find something I would wear. I rummaged through things at first with much hesitation, but then I found a sweater. I bought it for five dollars, brought it home, hand washed it, and lo and behold, it became one of my favorites.
From that time on, I never frowned upon dumpster-diving or trash-picking, and the value of that lesson found its way back to me when, during the week of bulk pick-up, my neighbor put out an old paddle boat that was in pretty good condition.
I was working from my home office that day, and as I was looking out the window I saw a man trying to get the paddle boat on the roof of his tattered van. He was struggling because he couldn’t lift it himself. However, he kept trying.
He would occasionally stop, bend over and wipe the sweat off his face with the bottom of his shirt and often looked up and down the street for help, but there wasn’t anyone nearby.
I thought about how I could help him, but I knew that my physical presence would be useless besides cheering him on. I couldn’t do nothing, and watching him tire himself out without making any progress was giving me a feeling of helplessness. So as I am accustomed to doing, I turned to silent prayer.
I prayed to know that the Christ is always on the scene even though invisible to the corporeal sense of sight. I acknowledged that because this man had found something worthwhile, then surely God would lend him a helping hand to lift up that boat and take it with him.
As I remained in prayer, I was tempted to peek and see if someone had come to his rescue, but I resisted until I was certain in my heart that love would find its way to meet that man’s needs.
After some time, I heard a truck pull up, and that’s when I got up and looked out the window. Another man arrived with a trailer attached to his truck, filled with a lot of unique items that seemed to have come from the bulk.
He stopped in front of the man with the paddle boat, got out of the truck, and approached him with a very big smile. Though I could not hear what they were saying, it was obvious this man wanted to help, and the look on the struggling man’s face reflected relief and gladness.
He reached out his hand to shake the helper’s hand, and within a few seconds, both men had that paddle boat on the roof of the van. Then the man with the boat touched the other man on the arm before he headed back to his truck and extended his hand once again offering more gratitude. He shook the hand of the man who helped him as though that man had given him a precious gift.
They were both smiling, their hands clasped in one another’s, as they were talking. That was followed by them waving bye to each other.
I was moved by this experience because both of those men found a treasure amid the trash that would be more valuable than the items in the man’s trailer or the paddle boat, and that was brotherly love.