Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nothing Wasted

I am not really an environmentalist.

There are people in this world who care more about baby harp seals than they do about baby humans. And those who spend lots of time and money trying to save spotted owls and beached whales, but nothing to stop the trafficking of young girls as sex slaves.

Don't misunderstand - I'm not at all in favor of cruelty to animals. 
I simply think there are a lot of other pressing issues which really need our attention. 

That said, I believe God expects us to be good stewards of the Earth He's created, to use the resources He's provided wisely and leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren. 
That's why I am kind of aggressive about recycling. (Obsessive, my wife would say.)

It's really all I've ever known. My parents were raised during the Great Depression. 
They knew from an early age that things couldn't be taken for granted or easily replaced. 
I learned that lesson through their example. When I was growing up, nothing was wasted. 
If it had any value at all, it was saved and filed away for a future need. 

My dad had (actually, has) boxes of miscellaneous screws and nails, plumbing parts, stacks of lath boards, all kinds of tools and old machines, buckets of iron and copper. Old tires were turned into swings, an old rowboat converted into a trailer, and a mangle (a big old device we used to iron sheets) became a barbecue rotisserie. Used lumber had the nails carefully removed, then was stored until a suitable project came along. The summer I turned 16, I spent several days cleaning mortar off old bricks from a wall we'd removed and stacking them up for the day they'd become a sidewalk. (There's a story in the bricks: I'll tell it in my next blog post.)

When I was a kid, my father's tendency to save everything meant I never lacked raw materials for play. Lath boards made great swords, and if one broke while we were swashbuckling there were a few hundred more in the pile. My friends and I would construct weird robots and stuff from the plumbing parts, crawl inside a cave built from old mattresses, make a jail out of old wooden chairs or set up a haunted house in the spooky basement with doors that went nowhere.

As an adult, there's this little guy inside my head that cringes at waste and says, "Somebody might be able to use that!" I've had to learn to throw things away, and I'm not very good at it. 
But I have stored up dozens of plastic grocery bags that I could use for trash disposal. <smile>

I save newspaper, junk mail, office paper, cardboard, glass containers (rinsed out), aluminum cans, plastic bottles & jars, and steel cans. Thankfully, I have a place where this stuff can be used. There is a group called Progress Port that collects all these things, shreds and crushes and bales them, then sells the results. Some of their workers are developmentally disabled people who have mental or physical issues that keep them from being able to function effectively in society at large. Progress Port funds a home where they live, and the work they do in recycling helps pay to keep the place running. They take pride in their work; they're earning their keep and being productive citizens. I think it's a great idea, and am glad to contribute my rather small efforts to it.

But I have to admit, my wife is correct in saying I can be a bit obsessive about recycling. I'm the one who empties the trash around here, and I'm always going through the waste cans and fishing out cans and bottles, paper and plastic. My excuse is, we have cats. 

That's right, felis catus is a source of some consternation in our house. You never really know what they may have knocked into the trash, so if you don't want things just disappearing 
(I know we used to have a salt shaker...) it's important to examine things carefully. Though this is true, it's also a fairly lame excuse trying to explain away my sifting through the kitchen garbage. The real explanation is that little guy saying "Somebody might be able to use that!"

Fortunately, we do have an informal neighborhood recycling program that takes care of most of the larger items. Let's say, for example, I have a broken microwave oven. It works, but the door won't stay latched so you have to stand there and hold it shut whenever you're cooking something. (This is not a hypothetical example, you might suspect.) The love of my life eventually rebelled at this necessity, despite my pleading (But it still works...) So we got a new microwave, and I was faced with the problem of disposing of the old one. I could not bring myself to throw away a still functional, if flawed, appliance. (Cue the little guy in my head.) So I took advantage of the Johnston City Recycling Plan. I set the thing out on the curb by the street. It was gone by the next morning.

This system works admirably with just about anything. Old TVs? Gone! Furniture - picked up!. Mattresses? Kiddie pools? Broken hedge trimmer? Yup, all possessed by somebody else now. The one thing so far that won't go away? Old computer monitors. Nobody wants them - everybody wants a flatscreen. Can't even pay people to take them away.

I like to think my actions are making the world a better place. And after all, I'm just following Jesus' instructions. (No, really.) In John 6, remember when He fed the 5000 men, plus women and children? Do you recall what He said after everybody had eaten as much as they wanted? Here it is: "When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.'" (John 6:12 NIV)

And they went out and picked up 12 baskets full of food. Definitely a miracle, considering He started with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. But consider what they were collecting - people's half-eaten fish sandwiches! In our culture, who wants somebody else's leftovers? Totally trash, worthless in our society. Yet Jesus said, "Let nothing be wasted". He saw value where we would not. Food was much harder to come by then. Somebody didn't go hungry because the leftovers were collected. 

In much of the world, people die every day from malnutrition and starvation. They'd love to to be able to sift through our garbage. I'm not saying we can solve world hunger by sending our leftover Happy Meals overseas. But I am trying to consciously use less, waste less, reuse and recycle more as my little part of making God's world a better place to live.

And I'm so thankful that Jesus doesn't want anything wasted, including mankind.
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV) My life was totally worthless, destined for the trash heap. 
But the Ultimate Recycler saw something there and said, "That's worth redeeming." 

He offers the same free gift to all who put their trust in Him. And that's good news...

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