It’s not a pretty picture is it? It’s nasty and dirty, paper and crushed cans on the floors of the old semi trailer. This is a picture of the trailer that holds our recycling for our school and parish. I am the coordinator of the program. Each time the 20 boxes are completely filled I call the recycling center to pick it up and drop off another trailer with 20 boxes and pallets.
This time when the trailer was dropped off my husband was out of town and could not help me to set up the boxes. I have done it for 6 years now, alone and with help and it is not easy. They leave the trailer with the boxes broken down and stacked 20 high, the pallets are also stacked 20 high. We have to pull the pallets down and line them along the sides of the trailer and then open the boxes. Many times it is like a jig saw puzzle because of where they leave the boxes and pallets. Sometimes they are in the middle of the trailer. It usually takes at least 45 minutes for 2 adults or an hour for 1 adult.
I asked my oldest son Ethan who is almost 12 to help me set it up. He reluctantly agreed to what he perceived as grueling manual labor in a dirty trailer. The boxes are very heavy and not easy to manipulate because they are 4 feet tall and about 4 feet wide. The pallets sometimes have nails and broken pieces of wood on them so we have to be extremely cautious when lifting them and when they hit the trailer floor a small dirt cloud ensues. It was dirty, heavy; hard manual labor but he did it with me without complaining. Although half way through the job he asked “Mom, why do you do this?”
I responded “Because I want the children to learn about recycling and taking care of the earth.”
When we were finished 1 hour later and he was dusted with filth I told him to look at what he had accomplished and he looked a little proud. As we shut the doors of the trailer and walked home looking forward to cleaning up and changing our clothes he asked me once more in a very serious tone “Mom, seriously why do you do this?” I paused and thought for a moment. “Ethan, this is stewardship. We won’t always like the service we do. In fact I hate setting up that darn trailer. I dread it every time. But I do it because God has given me a wonderful life, with awesome children and a great family and I need to give back. I do it because it teaches the children and the parish how to take care of the earth. I do it because I think that’s what God wants me to do.” Ethan looked away and I could tell he was taking in my words and he was satisfied with them.
Most of us have done things we can’t stand doing for the good of others. Parents do them constantly; laundry, cleaning up sickness left behind by children, getting up in the middle of the night, and making money doing a job they detest to pay for their families. It’s difficult for a child to understand doing something they don’t want to do is good but the more they mature the more selfless they will become. We need to teach our children by our example so they can grow as well.