To the dude digging through my trashcan and adjacent boxes & bags of garbage:
It’s trash day. I saw your beige sedan parked next to my dumpster and the huge honkin’ pile of garbage at the end of my driveway. I saw you bending over the piles and retreating to your car every minute or so with a handful of things. I stood on my porch and mustered the courage to yell at you (yes, I had to muster the courage to yell at you from 5 semi-truck lengths away). You didn’t hear me. I yelled again. Nothing. You kept your hunched stance over my trash and kept digging away.
Something inside me was angry and concerned. Had I thrown out our bank statements in that trash load? What personal information is out there on the curb? Darn it, why is there some random dude taking my trash? Yea, it’s garbage and the trash men are set to take it to the dump–I threw it out for a reason, but by golly, I don’t want YOU to take it.
Ever so protective of my own pile of trash, I decided to act. Took even more courage for me to do what I did next. I loaded up the girls as fast as I could in the car. I drove down the driveway. You didn’t hear me coming. Must have been the traffic on the street next to you.
I honked my horn. That got your attention. I opened my car door and stepped out of the vehicle. I’d put your age around 40. You wore plain clothes and didn’t seem out of sorts.
“What are you doing going through my trash?” I asked. It’s super cold today. Windy. I didn’t grab a coat.
“Looking for junk,” you replied. You had what looked like an old children’s toy in your hand. Maybe an old bath toy or one of those singing toys you hang on the side of the crib.
“I don’t want you going through my trash,” I responded. My voice was tight. Mixture of the bitter breeze and my own fear tensed my vocal cords.
“What’s the big deal?” you asked.
I repeated myself. “I don’t want you going through my trash,” I asserted, with more authority than the first time I said it.
“Aww, I find things to sell to make ends meet—I’m a single dad and just trying to make a little extra to take care of my kids,” you reason as you wave your free hand toward the car. I follow where you point and see two kids squirming in the back seat of your car.
My heart softened a little and so did my tone of voice.
“Look, I have some extra toys if you want them, but you don’t need to be going through my trash for stuff,” I responded. This is true–I have a full box of toys we aren’t using and lots of baby clothes that you could sell if you wanted to. I’d give them to you for free.
“Do you know Jesus?” you asked.
“Yes, I do,” I responded, “I have some toys if you want them.”
You backed up toward your open car door and said “God bless” before retreating inside your car.
You drove off.
My neighbor who had seen the whole thing finally approached me after his long walk from his house. He had been slowly walking toward the scene as it was happening. He asked how the girls were doing and told me that if I ever needed anything that I should come get him. I profusely thanked him and told him to have a good day.
I slammed my door shut and reversed the car down the whole length of the driveway. Once back in the house, I saw my youngest daughter had a poop explosion and her blankets and clothes were soaked through with greenish yellow slime.
Wouldn’t you know it? My newborn somehow got poop on her hands and then proceeded to smack herself in the eye. Frantic and desperate, I cleaned her eye as best as I could. I only seemed to make it worse.
It was at that moment that I broke down into sobs.
Dude, I know you were just trying to find some goodies to sell so you could make a little extra dough for your kiddos. My unassuming trash pile was a beacon of hope for you. I get it. You could see my mound of trash half a mile away.
Yea, it was trash. I threw it out for a reason. Why should I care so much about what happens to it after I drop it at the curb? I don’t know. Invasion of privacy, perhaps? That’s my garbage. It says something about me. It can tell my personal information if the right things are thrown out. If I wanted someone else to use my unwanted items, I would have given them to a re-sale distribution center as opposed to just throwing them out on garbage day.
I would have willingly and freely given you toys and clothes for your kids. Heck, I might have even straight up given you money or told you to meet me at Wal-Mart where I would have bought you a cart-full of groceries and stuff for your kids. I wanted to. That’s what I was getting at—but you didn’t hear me. You only heard my unfaltering terse voice telling you to “Get away from my trash, it’s MY trash.”
I am not a confrontational person. Believe it or not, it took a lot of guts for me to come out to talk to you. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt—so I believed you when you said you were just trying to provide for your kids. I get it–you do what you’ve gotta do to take care of them.
I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that I wanted to help. I still want to help. Next time, please just come to my door and talk to me. You don’t need to go through my trash.