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A Tale of Two Trashcans, by Fr. Daniel

Our neighbor, Mrs. Tabby, has a tiny garbage can that apparently holds all of her garbage from the week. I have never seen it filled to over-flowing. Amanda loves the little garbage can. “It’s so cute,” she says.

As I walked the streets of Geneseo, noticing how large garbage cans have become, I began to wonder whether we produce trash relative to the size of our trash containers.

We live in a society where we are encouraged to buy more and, therefore, dispose of more. As we produce more trash, instead of considering whether we are producing too much, we find ourselves going to the store to buy yet another garbage for our trash.

I’ve begun to see our neighbor’s small trash can as a metaphor. Sure, Mrs. Tabby is an elderly woman who lives alone. She’s obviously going to produce less trash. But this is not about how much trash we produce. We already know that we produce too much and that we are causing unnecessary harm to the world. The underlying issue, here, is our propensity to buy another trashcan—to solve the problem of our consumption, rather that stopping to consider if we’re producing too much or consuming too much. We avoid dealing with what may need to change about our way of life.

Having two trashcans means that I don’t have to reflect on how I live my life. Two trashcans means I need not stop what I’m doing to consider whether I should, in fact, be doing it. This metaphor reaches into our relationships, as well. My co-worker, who’s obviously wrong about everything, will always be wrong, so long as he disagrees with me. I don’t need to see myself from his shoes. I already have two trashcans, as it were. I already see things “correctly.”

What if we began such encounters by first considering if there is something about us that needs to change? What if we listened deeply, instead of reacting to what goes against our view of the world? We may find ourselves wasting less and enjoying more. We may find that our relationships have gotten stronger and deeper. We won’t know, however, until we stop to consider.

Jesus told them a parable: The land of a rich man produced much, so he thought to himself, “What shall I do? … I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and goods. Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty… Eat, drink, and be merry!” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be required of you…” (Luke 12:16-20).

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