My college pastor was pretty rad (I mean he still is, he is just not my current pastor). He was incredibly helpful when I became a new Christian spending hours answering my questions about the Bible and encouraging me to serve in ministry leadership. Whether they know it or not, I would say he and his wife were some of my formative Christian influences (again, they’re pretty legit).
One of the stories he would constantly reference in sermons was how he and his roommates would go dumpster diving for food when they were in college. No, it wasn’t something that the local college taught in orientation. They first learned about it from a homeless man that they let stay in their house. As the story goes, to thank them for the hospitality, their transient roommate made them a steak dinner. When my pastor and his roommates asked where he got the food from, and the initial shock wore off, then the grand opening of their new grocery store journey began.
At first it seems super gross and definitely not something I’m going to add to the bucket list. My initial response was, “you realize they threw that food away for a reason, right? It’s gone bad.” But bad according to who?
Well in the case of dumpster diving probably a lot of people and maybe the FDA. But in all seriousness as I think about that story, I have to ask…who ultimately gets to make the distinctions of when something has gone bad, when we trust the “sell by” date as opposed to looking at the color, packaging, or it’s possible viability?
And as I take that thought further than the food I may eat…who makes the distinction of prescribed value and capability to things, to viewpoints or to people.
The answer, I do, we do. And that is both the bad news as well as the good.
Let’s just have a moment of utter honesty for the bad news (this is a safe space)…
Whether you care to accept it or not, you and I each have the tendency to be shitty humans. There I said it. I apologize for the colorful language but that is really the best word.
I think we can each say yes, that’s me, but I will just speak for myself that I have made people feel like garbage and it was by no means okay. Over the years I did this, knowingly or not, showing others that they were not worth my time, my energy, my money, my praise, my regard, my (fill in the blank). I did this through my words, my indirect mannerisms, my deliberate actions, or even my standing idle when they were getting berated or belittled. Ugh! It makes me sick when I think about the hurt and pain I’ve caused. They were definitely not some of my shining moments.
Being disregarded or treated like yesterday’s trash can feed into our thoughts that we are not good enough, we are not the prime choice in whatever situation, or it can confirm those lingering thoughts of how we feel we are indeed garbage. Being disregarded by one or many can play tug of war with our hearts and make us doubt our inherent value and worth.
If our first thought when we look at someone is to see them as “less than” for whatever reason (size, shape, smell, packaging, age, whatever) we miss the opportunity for them to provide sustenance to our lives. This may have been the potential nourishment we needed, but we were too proud to go dumpster diving.
Moving on to the good news. What my pastor’s dumpster diving story has been impressing upon me is that we have an amazing amount of power given to us in being able to ascribe value to things (or in this case to people). We do this with how we interact with them—our words, our actions, our mannerisms and even our care. Thank you so much Spiderman for letting us know that with great power comes great responsibility.
Our burden and our joy is that we get to make people feel like filet mignon wrapped in bacon or like pickled pigs feet…when ultimately they are both protein…no better or no worse, just preference. So, my encouragement today is that we adjust our filters of worth, see “nutritional” value in every person we interact with (metaphorically, not literally you cannibal), and remember that even what we may deem as trash is someone else’s treasure.
Until next time…Live as a Masterpiece!