Oddly enough, I had already decided to write on this subject today when I noticed that the Pyromaniac had chosen this topic for the day. While his post is more theologically reasoned and probably altogether better, mine is at least more practical, experiential, and much funnier. Mine is a “rubber meets the road” post. This really happened to me.
I spent most of yesterday in Baton Rouge visiting a friend who had to have a six by-pass surgery on his heart. I didn’t even know that you could have six by-passes! My wife and son went with me because this family is so close to our hearts. We stayed and prayed and provided whatever measure of cheer and hope that we could, then we made the trek to our home.
Everything appeared to be normal when we returned to the house. The doors were locked; no windows were broken, and the dog seemed happy. Little did I suspect the scenario that was about to play out over the course of yesterday and this morning.
Yesterday was also the day before trash pick-up. Since it is my duty as a man to see to it that the trash gets from the house to the road, my wife was naturally rounding up all the indoor trash and taking it out to the outdoor can. After which she would return and smugly remind me that I had once again neglected my duty, and that the least I could do now was finish the job by dragging the trash to the road. It did not go as she suspected.
I was sitting at the computer when she returned. She had a shocked look on her face. This was not the look that I had suspected because I had already figured out that she was rounding up the trash. I had already assumed the humbled, sheepish look of a man who had once again neglected his duty. As I blinked confusedly, she uttered this statement, “The neighbor has our garbage can.”
I continued to blink confusedly. She explained again, “The neighbor has our garbage can.” I said, “The neighbor has our garbage can?” She said, “Yes, the neighbor has our garbage can.” I said, “Why does the neighbor have our garbage can?” She said, “I don’t know, but he has our garbage can.” I said, “Oh.”
I got up from my seat and went over to peek out the blinds at the neighbor’s yard. Sure enough, amongst the other five garbage cans this particular neighbor had sitting out by the road, there was a green one that looked suspiciously like mine. To complicate matters, it was stuffed full of trash. The neighbor’s trash, that is. Not mine. My trash was sitting on the carport where my wife left it.
Several possibilities ran through my head. “Maybe he took it by mistake,” I thought. But then I would think, “How can you take a garbage can by mistake?” “Well, maybe the garbage men threw it into the wrong yard.” I knew that this was no good because I had seen the can in my yard the day before. “Maybe the wind blew it over there.” The logical guy in me said, “Yeah, right.” “Maybe they stole it out of my yard!” I deduced. “Perhaps, but let’s not be hasty.”
I pondered what to do. Should I just go over there and take it? I mean, I still had the matching lid in my carport. I could prove to the CSI people that it was my can if a question arose. But then there was the problem of it being already full of trash. That means it would do me no good unless I dumped the neighbor’s trash out. That’s rather impolite, especially if it was an accident that my can wound up in his yard.
My wife was looking for me to do something. After all, I am the man of the house. I mean, if I let someone waltz over and take my garbage can in broad daylight without a word. Next thing to go will be my lawnmower, then my weedeater, and eventually my wife will leave too. Who wants to be married to a sissified man? This garbage can thing was serious business.
What would John Wayne do? What would Jesus do? What would Gilligan do? While I wanted to be manly like John Wayne and waltz over and fight my way to the garbage can, I knew that Jesus might not approve of this. I honestly had no idea how Jesus would handle this. Nobody ever took His garbage can. To my horror, I realized that Gilligan would probably be looking through his blinds at the neighbor’s yard like a weenie, which is exactly what I was doing. I am definitely more Gilliganish than John Wayne-ish. My wife proved that she was the Skipper by verbally smacking me over the head with, “Well, what are you going to do?” “Well,” I said, “I’m going to wait until after the trash pick up tomorrow and go and get my trash can.” “Oh,” she said. For the rest of the day I peeked out the blinds at my garbage can sitting there with another man’s trash in it.
This morning, I rose with a determined plan. I would go and get the can. But how? Should I knock on the door and talk to the neighbor? Or should I just go covert? What if the neighbor confronted me in the middle of the operation and it turned nasty? This was the real question that burned in my mind.
Let’s take the worst case scenario. Let’s pretend that my neighbor is some sort of nefarious garbage can stealer, as evidenced by the multitude of mismatched garbage cans he has in his yard. Let’s further speculate that he is a bruiser. A real mean guy who twists off people’s arms and steals garbage cans for fun. What would I do if he came out and confronted me? Should I fight over a garbage can? Certainly not! No, I would fight over the principle of the thing. That’s my garbage can people! I have the lid and everything!
Then I thought, “Okay, let’s say he waltzes over and says, ‘Hey, what do you think you’re doing, skinny preacher?!’” I’ll say, “Getting back my garbage can sir.” And he says, “Well, I'll just beat your brains out then!” Then he proceeds to try, and I actually get lucky and knock him out flat in the road. Then I think, “Would I get fired as a pastor if I punch out my neighbor over a garbage can?” I knew I could keep my job if I simply got beat up over it. The pity factor would help me keep my job if I got whipped, the problem with the job would be winning the fight. It's weird how we admire a guy getting beat up on principle, but we dislike someone winning on principle.
By the time I had thought through all of this is was nearing 9am. The garbage man had come and gone, and I was late for work. Through the blinds I could see my empty garbage can laying by the road.
Foolishly and without a plan, I walked across the street with my lid, stuck it on my garbage can, and walked back home with it. I never did figure out whether or not I should resort to fisticuffs over a garbage can, but the Skipper is happy, and so is Gilligan. I guess that makes a happy ending.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.