I Chronicles 29:11 "Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Garbage Day

I know this post is not a regular one. It’s long, and it looks like a story. Well, it is. But please read it. Fried Okra had asked me to post about daily activities, and I decided to write about garbage day, since that’s what today is.
Of course the people are fictitious, seeing as how my name is JulieMom and not Laura, but I am sure you understand.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Laura woke to the African sunrise streaming lightly through her drawn curtains. Even though her fan was still on, the heat was oppressive. Inwardly she groaned. Today was garbage day. That meant she’d have to get out of bed sooner than she wanted to make sure every basket in the house was empty. Although Laura loved the feeling of ridding the house of junk, she didn’t want to leave the comfort of her new mattress, or the downy softness of her pillow so early just to drag the large garbage bin outside her gate. She had tried to convince her husband they should do it the night before, but they both always seemed to forget. Well, the gardener would be there in twenty minutes, according to her clock on the night stand, and if her bin wasn’t ready he wouldn’t bring it outside the electric gate of their community.

Stretching, and sighing, she made her way out of bed. As she walked past the door of the en-suite bathroom, she stuck her head inside and examined the garbage pail. Half full was good enough for her. She bent and scooped up the plastic shopping bag she used as a liner. Tying the handles together as she walked down the hall, she inspected the guest bathroom too. The bin was empty, so she moved on to the kitchen, glancing in her kids’ rooms as she passed to check their pails.

The smell of garbage in the kitchen welcomed her even before she entered the room. Last night’s tuna casserole had not fared well in the stuffy kitchen. It had been a hot night, and from the feel of it, this morning was promising more of the same. As she lifted the lid to change the garbage bag, she held her breath. She did not need a whiff of that to help her wake up.

Unlocking first the wooden inner door of the kitchen, and then the heavy metal gate outside it, she removed the offending bag. She could hear the hard plastic wheels of neighboring bins hitting the brick road outside her house as the neighborhood gardener pulled them past. Seems she would just make it on time. She waved, threw the bag into the large bin, and absently wiped her hands on her pajama bottoms before moving her bin outside the security gate attached to the wall surrounding her home.

Stepping back inside to the cool tile in the kitchen, she sighed and thanked the Lord that stinky job was done. She had a full schedule with the kids today. But first things first. She started breakfast.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lorato woke with a pain in her neck. She rubbed the spot, but knew nothing would help. The pain that greeted her every morning was from sleeping on the dirt floor of the squatter’s shack she shared with her aunt and two brothers. The eight foot by eight foot shack was stifling. She couldn’t wait to get into the fresh air. Well, as fresh as it could be considering where she lived. Her neighborhood was one square mile full of shacks like hers. No running water, no electricity, no indoor toilets. Just row after row of huts made of corrugated aluminum, cardboard, and whatever else people found to make shelter. And all the smells that came with close living and no regular hygiene.

Before exiting the shack, she took a glance out the window. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon. She’d have to hurry if she was going to make it before all the good things were gone. She looked forward to this day every week. Her family depended on her findings. Last week she had found a coat for her aunt that was perfect except for a broken zipper. And a loaf of bread that was a bit moldy but still edible. Finds like those helped her stave off the hunger and depression her standard of living caused.

Lorato and her two brothers prepared to hitch a ride on the back of a passing flatbed heading in the direction of town. The older of the two boys was shouldering their large bag they used to bring their finds home. Lorato hadn’t bothered to change her clothes. They would just get filthy anyway with what they were about to do. She swiped the back of her pants with her left hand, and twisted her short black hair with between the first two fingers of her right hand. She had seen pictures of beautiful black women from America in the magazines she sometimes found on days like today. She dreamed someday she’d be able to grow her hair out and flatten it like they did. She had ripped a picture of them out and kept it hidden in the pocket of her worn jeans. If her aunt found it she would say it was worthless junk and throw it out. But it gave her hope.

They were let off at the corner near the gas station, and walked the quarter mile to the housing development. It was garbage day, and as they neared, Lorato could see the bins lined up outside the electric gate. She was glad there wasn’t anyone else there yet. It was always harder to find things they could use once someone else had gone through the bins. Though she knew they had a good two hours worth of work ahead of them in the hot sun, Lorato couldn’t help but feel an unexplainable excitement for the dirty, yet profitable hunt.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Laura was in a hurry now, but not yet panicked. The kids had taken a lot longer to wake up than anticipated, which pushed back the breakfast schedule, which pushed everything else dangerously close to falling behind. They were all showered and changed, breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, and loading into the van. She couldn’t wait to get the AC going. Though it was still before nine, the sun was showing its strength. Little beads of sweat gathered on her upper lip. As she backed out the garage and pushed the button to automatically close it, she thanked God again for the S.U.V. with which He’d blessed them.

She neared the electric security gate that surrounded the perimeter of her neighborhood, and pushed the button on her remote to open it. Her breath caught in her throat. There they were again, that young girl and two little boys, digging through the garbage bins. The thought that they were actually looking for something to eat sickened her. She didn’t know what she could do, so she decided to drive past them and try not to stare. She knew the kids were staring and would soon be asking her about them. Again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lorato had just found a pair of shoes about her size. The laces were missing, and they were really dirty, but they had to be better than what she was wearing now. Her shoes, if you could call them that, were worn clear through the toes, and had been that way shortly after she had found them. They’d always been tight on her, and she was sure this new-to-her, though dirty pair would be roomier. As she was lifting them out of the bin, a large truck pulled out through the security gate in front of her. The woman driving tried not to look at her, but the girl in the passenger seat was pointing and saying something to the others in the truck. Lorato couldn’t hear what she said, though, because the windows were up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Those are my shoes, Mom!!” Laura was still stunned by the words her daughter had exclaimed as they were leaving the gate. It was bad enough those kids were digging through the garbage bins, but now they had found something from their bin. Laura knew those shoes the girl held were in no condition to be worn. They were totally worn out. The sole was beginning to separate from the rest of the left shoe, and the right one had a hole in the heel. Add to that the fact that neither had laces, and they were pretty worthless. But they must have been something the girl needed. Laura automatically sent up a prayer of thanks for the many provisions the Lord had sent them. And for the fact they’d never had to pick through garbage bins for their next pair of shoes, or, as Laura was sure was also a part of what those children sought, their next meal.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As sad as this story seems, it is what I see every Friday here when we leave to run errands. We drive past in our air conditioned Honda (not the big truck in this story) and watch people sort through things from our neighborhood garbage bins. It rips my heart out. I don’t know what to do for them, because helping is not something you can safely do here in South Africa. But they are here every week. I just have to pray.


  • WendyMom

    Oh my sweet, sweet Lord Jesus!

    You promise us in your word that you rain on the just and the unjust, and that you sent your son Jesus to die for ALL of the world. I can't imagine how God feels about His precious kids digging through garbage for something salvageable to eat or wear. That story tears out my heart, and I will agree with you in prayer.

    I love you.

  • Megan (FriedOkra)

    Do you feel pulled to put good, useful stuff in your bin on Friday morning? I think I would.

    I am sorry to hear of this, although sadly not at all surprised.

    Thanks for sharing. I know it must have been hard to write this one.

  • Anonymous

    What a missionary moment. I remember kids lining up outisde the big dumpster behind our apartment in Ostrava to go through my garbage when they saw me leaving my apartment and heading down to the dumpster. It breaks your heart. Pray. Bless them in the name of Jesus. Smile and touch them. Love and give all you can. What a great privledge to be the hands of Jesus in such a needy place.
    Andrea Pitcher

  • Anonymous

    Wow...it really puts things in perspective, doesn't it??? I certainly have nothing to complain about. God bless you, Julie as you figure out a way to help. I will be praying for you.


  • Michelle

    while my hubby and I were in SA he would do runs where they would go to the stores and get their throw aways and then pass them out in the neighborhoods like the one described above.
    It is heart wrenching.
    It is.

  • Anonymous

    I can keep touch with your blissful life with three sweet fairies from glorious Cinderella. I think they are great girls to have. What a bless you and the spiritual dig-guru have! I can not wait to catch your native new! I bet I want to sing the five angels with my harp, ha.

    What's going on in SA? Three pigs plan to swim in the muddy pool or what? Haha. Just kidding. God's hand around these pigs is infinite powerful against the wolf! Praise the Lord!

    Keep the focus to the Lord! Jeremiah 17:7-8
    Take a look at the precious tree from Proverbs 11:28. It will do it!

    Hope everything goes ultra-great or "omniawesome" for all of you! God bless you!


    Feel free to contact me.


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