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Dumpster Diving

“Things are not always as they seem.”

– Phaedrus (Roman Poet)

More often than I care to admit, I find myself in embarrassed to the point where all I can do not to cry is to laugh with the people laughing at me.

Today, for example, I stopped at the gas station on my way home from getting duplicate house keys made at The Home Depot. Per our usual gas station drill, the kids and I rifled through the car and threw all the trash into the bin near the pump. (My teenage daughter has been driving that car lately, so today was quite a haul.)

When we got home, I realized that the two new key duplicates were missing. My brain flashed back to the gas station. They had been in a small, lightweight paper bag, so my youngest daughter must have thrown them out. I got back into the car and retraced our steps. Standing next to the gas station trash can, I peered inside. Thankfully it had not yet been emptied. I could still see our snack wrappers on the top.

I looked around, and since everyone seemed to be busy filling up their cars, decided to go for it. I stuck my hands in and quickly sorted through the trash on the top. No luck. I’d have to dig deeper. Since my arms were too short to reach the bottom of the canister, I pulled off its plastic covering and heaved the trash bag out on to the concrete. Throwing stealth to the wind, and gagging a little, I opened the bag, hunched over and started sorting through soda cans, chewed gum, half-filled coffee cups, and I don’t want to know what that was.

As hard as I tried, I could not find the keys. As I stood up to put the trash bag back into its container, I saw a couple sitting in a big Ford truck on the other side of the gas pump staring at me. Their windows were up, but I knew they were talking about me. As soon as our eyes met, I could see compassion in their faces.

Hoping to explain myself, I walked over and motioned for the man to roll down his window. “We were talking about how we might help you,” he said. I explained the mystery of the lost keys and we laughed out loud together. They were thankful I wasn’t dumpster diving and I was thankful for the laughter to replace my stress.

Driving away from the gas station I was reminded of how quick I am to judge others. I judge the single mom on her phone at the playground. Shouldn’t she be playing with her toddler? I judge the homeless man on the corner holding a cardboard sign. Couldn’t he work at McDonald’s?

The Bible teaches us in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and the with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Who have you judged lately? Could their circumstances be different than what you see? What if we let compassion replace judgment and kindness replace criticism?

What if we paused and didn’t jump to conclusions? We just might be surprised by what we discover, like the missing keys that had been in my purse the whole time.


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