One Man’s Trash

We have all heard the saying “One Man’s Trash…” let me stop your brain right there,  before you go to “treasure” let’s just say at a minimum… it just shouldn’t be trash.  Maybe it was my humble upbringing. We had a rule in our home – if it wasn’t broken it wasn’t ours. 90% of the “stuff” we owned was from yard and garage sales, and yes I can remember wearing a really nice striped dress shirt with a monogram (we were all the rage in the 80’s) that was a bit hard to explain – since my initials were WJM – and the monogram was NOT. As creative as my brain was, and as witty as my father was, simply said any other combination except your initials is difficult to explain… but it was a brand new, never worn shirt, that came from an exclusive part of Lee’s Summit, quite a treasure for a yard sale, so I wore it.

The other day I was out at Panera grabbing lunch with colleagues. I excused myself to the restroom to wash up and as I went to dispose of my paper towel, this lime green 5star folder is just sitting in the top of the can. The folder looked to be in perfect condition. I pulled it out and opened it up, thinking maybe there was some hurtful writing inside – some mean and nasty note left by someones ex… but no…  just a perfectly bright white, untouched folder. It looked like it came off of the shelf at a store.

My mind couldn’t help but race to Zambia and the kids from the various schools of African Vision of Hope. You won’t find luxuries like store bought folders being owned by these children. They nor their families could afford them and why would you buy what you can make? I started catching onto this during my 2nd trip to Zambia.   Making your own folder is a simple process of recycling the coated/color advertisement section of the newspaper (un-coated news print will rub off on your homework – no bueno) and carefully folding the paper to create a folder or cover. No tape, nor glue, just the best origami style effort of folding the child handling the manufacturing job can do.

I have checked on Amazon and Wal-Mart’s website. This laminated folder (you can even see the lamination causing the water to bead in the photo) runs $1.25 – $1.50.  I know this next part is staggering, but do we TRULY understand that the majority world (yes there is more to this world than the US) lives on less than $2.00 a day.

In Zambia throwing this folder away is equal to K11. To put this in perspective during “ideal” (unfortunately things are rarely ideal) conditions a family of 4 or 5 could by a 50lb bag of Mealie Meal for K66. That bag would be 90% of what that family would eat for the majority of the month. The struggle is most families in the compound can not afford to buy the K66 bag of meal and pay rent. Many families are struggling to make K500 a month and 90% of that will go to pay the rent.  Let me convert and repeat that number  – Many families that live in the compounds of Zambia and in the rural communities struggle to make $50.00 a month. I know to the majority of us reading this, that sounds like it MUST be a lie or an exaggeration – it is neither – it is REALITY.

When that reality really settles in, it will affect the way you see things, like $1.50 sitting in a trash can.  As we head to the inauguration of our next President, there is a lot of talk about Making America Great Again. I think it starts with humbling ourselves and realizing as a nation how blessed… no how spoiled we are. I think to term a phrase my Grandad Higgins use to say… we’ve “gotten to big for our britches”.  If your a believer your called to a different level of stewardship – none of this is ours – it all belongs to our Father. We are called to care and share – to be good stewards – and to lead by example.

And yes I will confess, as a Vice President, I might have job title that “sounds important” – but that won’t keep me from pulling something out of a trash can or picking something up off a curb – if that makes you uncomfortable then I am sorry you feel that way. But that may not be the worst of it – you really might hate what your getting next year for Christmas…

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