Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have a friend who collects aluminum cans.  Not to keep them, but to recycle.  She's the one at picnics trying to grab all the cans before they get put into the trash, and if folks move to fast for her to do that, she'll pull them out of the trash.  She is a sweet soul, not a militant can hoarder.  Some folks passionate about their various causes do harm to others in the process, and I wonder sometimes if perhaps they care more about having a cause than about the cause itself, but this friend isn't like that.  She does her thing kindly, gently, persistently.  She's not obnoxious as she chides us for throwing away cans.  She just has a thing about recycling.

After years of her kind and persistent influence, I finally added to our home a wastebasket that is dedicated to aluminum cans.  We have gradually gathered them and now have several bags taking up space in our garage.

In an odd way, our little recycling basket has come to matter to me.  Seeing it reminds me of little things that add up.  Like dust, the cans are small and accumulate somewhat slowly, but this slow accumulation adds up to something significant over time.  I think of the things in my life that I don't want to keep around -- mostly habits and behaviors that I am tempted to justify as small and insignificant, but which, when taken together, add up to a kind of character that I don't want to have.  The excuse that "it's just a little thing" doesn't work.

Our basket of cans matters to me, too, because these cans are to be recycled rather than just thrown out.  What could simply become troublesome waste is instead able to serve a purpose, being re-formed into something good.  Aluminum cans can be "redeemed," and so can the broken-down, used-up, troublesome waste in the rest of life.

So, I signed up for recycling.  They'll take cans, papers, cardboards, and plastics -- in other words, most of the junk that fills up our trash during much of the year.  This may be an "eco-conscious decision," and I am glad to be helping out the environment.  But it is also a symbolic decision, representing deeper realities of being human.

I'm looking forward to recycling.

No comments: