I am walking towards the dumpster area with a white bag in my hands and as I approach I hear movement inside the dumpster. Normally I would feel hesitant to come any closer. Yet, this time the sounds inspired no hesitancy. I walk without fear towards the open gate and I take in the scene that is unfolding before my eyes.
There are glass and plastic bottles scattered throughout the cement floor between two large dumpsters. I see a being rise up from within the trash filled container on the left and we recognize one another. A recognition beyond words or phenomena. I know somehow that this moment is marked by a vibration that brings everything to life in a way that is easy to miss. My heart is raw and open. I can feel it burning with pain and love within my chest. I see him and I smile. I greet him and notice that he’s the one that scattered the bottles on the floor and is looking for more within the dumpster.
“Are you recycling?” I ask him.
“Yes.” he answers as he continues to perform his job without shame or distaste, with a lot of patience and very carefully.
A force from within me already knows what to do. I tell him, “I have two bags full of bottles to be recycled. Would you like to take them?”
“Yes. I’ll take them.” He smiles at me.
I ask him where he recycles and he tells me that he goes all around the area. My eyes cannot look away from his gentle face and my heart feels like it has filled up the entire space. Tears fill my eyes.
I can hardly believe what I am witnessing but I know it to be a present living reality.
How can such a being with such care and patience sort through what others have already decided is trash? He is looking for what can be recycled. His job is to find it and to take it to become something new, to be used for something else. What he finds does not go to waste. This is what he must do. What a great sacrifice. All I can think is, “what else can I do to help?”
And now I see him looking through the trash I threw into the dumpster last night. I had cleaned out the cabinets in my bathroom and filled up a big bag with all the old cosmetics and creams I once wore as a mask, to beautify myself. I didn’t want them anymore now and here he was holding them, wondering who would do such a thing. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that it was me who had thrown it all away last night and that now he was having to sort through it to find what could be recycled. I didn’t want him to know it was my trash. He didn’t seem to mind though and that made it even more difficult to witness.
A wave of infinite gratitude washes over the moment. I tell him I will be right back with the bags of bottles and with water for his thirst. Before I go I ask him, “what’s your name?”
“Me? I’m Al” he responds.
“I’m Sylvia” I tell him.
And as I walk away the tears that are gathering in my eyes stream down my cheeks and I touch my heart and I almost can’t believe it. Except it’s true. I saw God.
The house of God was surrounding me and there was nothing that wasn’t it. And he was here in this corner of it, sorting through things as he usually does. Taking what we all consider waste to make it new again.
I come back with the two bags and with a bottle filled with fresh water for him. I bring two empty bags to help him put bottles in there. I pick up the bottles from the floor and place them in one of the bags I’m holding.
“Your husband is going to think you’re doing too much.” he says from within the dumpster.
I laugh and I point to the Sun shining brightly through the trees. “That’s my husband, he’ll understand.”
Al laughs as he continues to look for recyclables.
I returned to my apartment after spending a few moments with him. He told me before leaving, “I’ll probably see you again.” And I knew I would.
Somehow in someway when the heart is open all that I can see is God.