Monthly, I head to Metro CareRing to volunteer. As I've noted here before, Metro CareRing is hunger-relief organization, and much of the food that they distribute every day is "grocery salvage" -- in other words, food that was kept out of the waste stream, food that the stores felt they couldn't sell because of blemishes, damaged packaging, etc. The food itself is certainly edible, but the stores doubt their customers would buy it. Translation: "Dispose of it!" Fortunately, organizations such as Elephant Talk and Metro CareRing (and others) are able to get that food to people who need it.
And, several weeks ago, I was in Portland cleaning out my mother's house in preparation for its sale. As is certainly the case with any of us who need to move (especially if there's a time-crunch), a LOT of stuff was destined for the trash bin. It wasn't necessarily broken or otherwise unusable. Some of it may have been out-of-style, or reflected only one person's interests, or was simply "too difficult" to repurpose. In short, it was easier to pitch it.
I returned from Portland and, a few days later, found myself helping with "Move-out". Students moving out of the residence halls are encouraged to donate things that they don't want to take back home, or to their next apartment. We don't have the final tally yet, but my guess is that the residence halls at DU contributed thousands of pounds of stuff to Goodwill. The variety was amazing. There were clothes that had clearly been worn, but outgrown. There were LOTS of plastic storage containers. Thousands of hangers. Unworn clothing with the sales tags still attached. Small refrigerators and other kitchen ware. And shoes, such as those above, that had clearly only been worn once -- and probably for a party. All of it "disposable" -- at least disposable enough that it didn't warrant packing up.
And, then, last week Pope Francis "upped" the "concern level" in an address he gave on World Environment Day:
"If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that's not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash . . . *
It's not refrigerators, diapers, razors, shoes, oranges or radishes. It's people that the Pope is accusing us of treating as "disposable". And I would tend to agree with him!
So I've been thinking a LOT about what I consider "disposable", what I think isn't worth keeping. Or what I purchase knowing that I'll use it for a brief moment and then throw it away. Oh, convenience! And certainly the stuff is one thing, but I'm confronted, too, by the people on the corners holding signs as I drive by. People that I "dispose of" after I turn onto the freeway.
Throughout the first creation story in Genesis, we read that, at the end of every day of God's creative activity, the product of that day (whether animals, plants, or heavenly bodies) was "good". Then, after the creation of human beings, theentire creation was pronounced as being: "VERY good!" (Gen 1.31). Everything around us, including us, is very good. We seem to have forgotten that, especially those of us in this affluent culture of abundance.
What do I throw away -- or consider "disposable"? And what does that say about me?
* Quotation from http://www.p-ced.com/1/node/135