Wealth in the Garbage Pail
Stinky, sloppy, soupy—the garbage pail is not my favorite kitchen vessel. The question of who should take care of dumping the garbage pail was solved for us when we delegated it to Elrich, the homeless man who came every day. Tradition dictated that he should do a small job before we give him tea and bread. Having him dump the garbage was the perfect way to dispose of the task—and the garbage pail’s contents.
I wasn’t anticipating exactly how the contents would be disposed of. I was picturing them being thrown on the slop pile under the banana trees. But every day Elrich rifled through the garbage, pulling out a stale tortilla, a moldy cinnamon roll, some burnt rice. Ick, I know. What was garbage to us was sustenance to him. (And let me vindicate myself by repeating that every day we were also giving him fresh, edible food. To take things out of the garbage pail was his choice, one not based on starvation.)
Watching Elrich take the garbage pail out each day made me look at that green bucket differently. What wealth it spoke of—pineapple tops, watermelon rinds, chicken bones all told of an abundance of delicious food. The spoiled beans (the smell unrivaled by none) said that my fridge had enough food in it that I could forget about something until it was past its prime. God had truly blessed us.
The garbage pail wasn’t the only thing I saw differently after living in Belize. When we moved into the mission house, I was depressed by all the junk in the closet, pantry, and dresser drawers. Everywhere was something old, outdated, and ugly. “What would anyone ever do with these?” I pulled out a yellow Tupperware canister set, some of them missing lids, most of them cracked.
“You could use them for flower pots,” one woman suggested. My manners did not allow me to snort, but I did put them back into the panty—to be junked later. I would wait a year to make sure I wouldn’t throw away anything useful, and then I would declutter. Big time.
After the year was up, I started to declutter. Some things found their way to the trash can, but the blender that couldn’t handle blending watermelon or cooked beans found a new home at the neighbors.’ The broken office chair was also adopted. And several people gladly received fans that had given up the ghost. A change in perspective made the unlovables useful.
Quite a few things I’d marked for disposing redeemed themselves. The roaster liners made ample pans to bake chicken in for a wedding. The non-working iron with duct tape on the cord provided hours of fun for a 5-year-old housewife trying to keep her doll laundry unwrinkled. The ugly picture frames looked much better with a touch of paint on the outside and a printed verse on the inside.
And of course, I can’t forget my house when I talk about a change in perspective. Its ugliness horrified me when measured against the chicness of Southern Living, the styles of Hobby Lobby. Its extravagance made me squirm when neighbors referred to me living in “the big house,” when neighbor children’s eyes widened at my girls having their own bedroom, and when a friend from church exclaimed about all our toys. (All our toys? They fit into one tote—mostly.)
I could continue, but I need to go water my habanero pepper plants. Their pink buds look so pretty against the walls of their yellow Tupperware homes.