We never think twice about throwing out stuff, or do we? Last night I was walking home and I saw a man meticulously going through the garbage dumpster in the street. He was taking every bag out, opening it and riffling through. Looking back at the scene all I could see was a man bending down over a bag with lots and lots of other opened bags around him. I got to thinking about this man, his life, his occupation. I didn’t get far before getting sad.
What I saw got me thinking about my trash bags and what I throw out. Its stuff I wouldn’t want to go through again, yet here is this man who is not just going through my bags but the whole neighborhoods bags. I wonder what he is looking for? Clothing that can still be worn, household goods that can be salvaged, old perfume bottles that can be refilled, recyclable materials? Probably all that and then some. What does he do with them? Is there a parallel world of garbage collectors that buy all this junk, polish it off and reuse it? Probably! They may even resell it back to us!
Thinking back to the scene from last night, one other thought struck me. He is working late and into the middle of the night. I know it’s not because of the midday heat, even though that could be part of it. But I have a strong feeling it is because he is ashamed of what he does. He doesn’t not want to be seen in broad daylight rummaging through other people’s trash!
It is a sad existence, like a parasites, living off of others in such a dirty way. But this is what the existence chain is like. The weak feed off of the strong. I do not pity him because that implies arrogance. I am a privileged person knowing that I do not have to live off of other people’s discarded trash, but I do empathize with him. I know I will give more thought to how and what I toss out in future so that his pickings may be easier.