Trash and Treasure

A few Saturday mornings ago, I arrived early for a meeting with a parishioner at the church. We were getting together to do setup for a special event the next day, and we really wanted things to look nice. As a result, I was particularly dismayed to see trash scattered all over the lawn on the N. Olive St. side of the building.


Just what one expects to find now and again


Now a church that sits downwind of a convenience store has to expect to find a little trash here and there, snatched from folks’ fingers as they unwrap their purchases. Trash also blows out of the trash bins on occasion and snags in our bushes. When a few weeks’ snow melts off,  as it had the day before, a few weeks’ trash buildup is revealed. We try to go around and do a trash pick up now and then, but it’s an ongoing task.
But this was different. There in the middle of the lawn sat a cardboard box from a case of beer. Too heavy to have been blown from someone’s grasp, it clearly had been left there on purpose. Given the number of Swisher Sweets wrappers also lying about, I was guessing that someone had a little party in our side yard. In my annoyance I imagined them leaving the trash there as an act of defiance against the church.

How’s this for product placement?

Dropping my stuff off inside, I stomped back out and began picking up the trash. By the time I got to the beer box, I had a handful, so I just stuffed the trash in the box, grabbed the box by the handle, and kept right on going. As I kept filling the box, I was almost grateful that I had the box there to put the trash in. Not quite, but almost.  Mostly I was just grumpy about having to pick up someone else’s trash, and I don’t think that was entirely about my not having had enough coffee yet.Then, as I was crawling behind a bush to grab an elusive chip bag, I spied a five-dollar bill likewise snagged in the bush’s branches. As I put the bill in my pocket for the offering plate, it occurred to me that the same folks who can’t be bothered to pick up their own trash are just as likely to let their treasure blow away as well.

Now, as I continued stuffing trash into my box (finders keepers, after all!), I began to wonder how much of what can be said about trash and treasure can be said about people as well. How often do we let our relationships with people slip from our fingers, too busy to be bothered with the effort of chasing those relationships into the crannies where they have wedged themselves, or unwilling to endure the scratches and scrapes we would have to endure? How often do we convince ourselves that a relationship isn’t our job to maintain? Who have we defined as “trash” that we can allow to blow down the street as if it had no relation to us? Where, in fact, is the break-even point, where our treasure becomes valuable enough to be worth the risk of pursuit?


My box almost runneth over!

By this point, my box was full. I took it across the street and threw it in the convenience store’s dumptster. By this point my parishioner had arrived, and as I returned to the church I realized I had been out of his line of sight. He was no doubt getting confused about why my car and stuff was there without me.
I checked the mailbox on my way in, and there I found an envelope with another parish’s return address. Opening it up, I found a donation from our sister church for the support of our ministry at Holy Trinity. Clearly this other parish had decided we were not disposable, even if our mess is of our own making. Thanks be to God!