I found an old journal I wrote in college, one I haven’t read in years. Page by page, I re-introduced me to myself from things penciled years ago.
Below is a story that flooded back to memory. It was in a college town two days after graduation, 36 years ago today. I was staying the summer to work two jobs in town while almost every other college student moved back home.
Here’s my journal entry from Monday, May 20, 1985:
It was lunch time and I sat sprawled out on a lounge chair reading and soaking in sunlight.
Saturday was graduation. People discarded everything imaginable in the huge dumpster across from our apartment.
It was a quiet day, and the whole apartment complex seemed disserted. Just a few scattered cars remained and the last ones to move were loading up.
I sat in my chair and didn’t move a muscle but to turn a page. Directly, an old man who worked the grounds of the apartment complex began looking in the dumpster.
He rummaged through the sacks that were piled against the dumpster and went through each bag. He would dig through each sack examining the contents and upon finding something of value to him, he would carefully set it aside.
For at least ten minutes I watched the man.
Every minute or so, he would quickly turn and glance my direction. So as not to be rude by staring, I would pop my eyes and face back to the pages of the book and pretend the man was not there.
He would look around to see if anyone else was around and watching. Upon assuring himself that no attention was on him, he would go back to digging in the trash.
With an armload of newly prized possessions, he walked quickly to his old, white Ford and deposited his treasures. He would look my way as he made his way back to the garbage dumpster to return to work.
After a while longer, I remembered the words of a book Oscar Thompson wrote… “There go I, but by the grace of God!”
There go I but by the grace of God???
Yes! There go I but by the grace of God!!!
I got up from my chair, secure surroundings, and from the grasp of my comfortable apartment porch, and looked around me like the old man to see who was watching, and started toward the dumpster.
We worked for the first few moments talking of the absurdity and wastefulness of people. He smiled and told me, “I got some silverware someone just threw in the bottom of this bag. Hadn’t hardly been used! I got a can opener. Still looks good to me! And shoot! I got three good pots that just need a little scrubbin’ to be good as new! Three of them! I tell ya, people are just crazy nowadays, just crazy!”
I smiled a note of agreement and threw a TV stand with two wheels missing on my shoulders. He carried a worn broom, another dented pot, and a bucket of bolts and such as we walked to his old white Ford. He promptly showed me the wide range of his newly acquired property.
He pulled a cable TV box from the back seat, and said, “I don’t even know what the hell this is.”
“It’s used for cable TV so you can hook it up to your TV and get all the stations. Those things are expensive. You can get some money for that.”, I said.
He had a surprised look in his eye that turned to a glad grin.
“Here!” he said. He held out the cable box. I didn’t want the box, but I understood what the man was saying.
His old eyes shined with joy as I graciously accepted his gift. I thanked him for the box once again as we said goodbye.
Walking back to my apartment, I glanced at two guys who had just graduated. They quickly looked back to roping the furniture on the back of their truck.
I guess they didn’t want to be rude and stare.
I felt something like the old man must feel as walked back carrying that cable box. I don’t really care what they think, because somehow, I have changed today.
Someone said, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
How true! For in a spiritual sense, my soul is useless, of no value, trash to the world.
But to God! I am a treasure!
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Deuteronomy 32:10