Broken Branches

“Broken Branches”

The storms of winter descended upon the city.

Many rendered powerless.

Darkness descended on the land.

Yet in the morning, a sparkly, bright, and dangerous wonderland.

As many as could, huddled inside to stay warm and comforted.

Food that would have been wasted was eaten.

And all around lay fallen, broken branches.

Men gathered limbs, cleared roads, restored lines of communication.

Power was returned to the people.

And then another wave of weighty storms descended.

“When will winter end?”

“When will I have power?”

And there in the carnage lay Mr Squirrel, fallen from the heights.

Yet still along the streets lay rows of broken branches.

Warmth and cold ebbed and flowed,

Walks were shoveled and hovels released residents.

The winds changed.

Rumors of other storms and floods and deaths rolled through.

Power was mostly restored,

though some still were disconnected.

But the memory of winter would not quit till spring

For all over town, hanging all around, lay broken branches.

With time, trees are trimmed, twigs picked up, limbs pruned.

Broken branches were sawn in pieces.

Peace was slowly restored.

After Pi Day and Patrick’s Day, and Impossible Shepherd’s Pie:

Joy erupted, sun shines later, heralding Spring:

Clean Streets! Clean homes and hearths and hearts!

Soon enough life will emerge in baby squirrels and budding branches.

So we shall march onward,

until the Common Life we had forgotten,

is remembered as risen in fresh power.

(C) Merton J. Hershberger St. Patrick’s Day 2023

First Shared with my Sherman Street Neighbors.

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God Devises an End to Divisiveness

“We will certainly die and be like water poured out on the ground, which can’t be recovered. But God would not take away a life; He would devise plans so that the one banished from Him does not remain banished.” – 2 Samuel‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Context: Joab put a wise old woman up to persuading David to welcome banished Absalom back. His intended goal was reconciliation and joy. He referred to common wisdom in Israel that David knew.
A. We are not going to live forever.
B. God doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked.
C. God plans and purposes to reconcile & redeem us to Himself.

Do you feel distant from God? Look for the ways the Lord is working through others to reconcile you to Himself and to make you right.

Does someone you know seem banished? Look for ways to connect them to Jesus’ redeeming power. Don’t give up. If what you are doing isn’t working, try something else … but by all means pray fir the person & for yourself.

A friend and I reaching out to a fellow from a Muslim background.

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Water and the Word of God

Help People Having Fresh Water - Eat2Save

Do you take water for granted or is every sip flavored with gratitude?

  1. What are you thankful for?
  2. How have you been able to share the Word of God with others lately?

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  1. Jesus is the Source of Living Water. He created water in the beginning, and He is working out a New Creation.

The Father, His Word, and The Spirit/Breath/Wind of God were present at Creation: Genesis 1:1-3 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

            Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles: John 7:37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

            Several OT passages hinting at a New Creation: Isaiah 58:11 The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. Ezekiel 47:1-12 Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple and there was water flowing from under the altar… Zechariah 14:8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it toward the eastern sea[Dead Sea] and the other half toward the western sea,[Mediterranean Sea] in summer and winter alike.

  • Our daily water is a metaphor for the continual supply of life that the Father gives us through the Holy Spirit because Jesus opened the well of life.

  • Sharing water can be an occasion for sharing living water: John 4:4-16

Now [Jesus] had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

(Notice: Jacob had to have dug the well generations earlier for Jesus to share the gospel at this well.)

God can cause water to spring up miraculously for His glory! Exodus 17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah[a] and Meribah,[b] because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Again the Lord answered the cry of Moses and the plea of Moses and brought forth water. Numbers 20:2-13

            The Waters of Meribah part 2 … This time Moses Strikes the Rock

Jesus linked the sharing of water with rewards from God. Matthew 10:40“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

  • Digging wells & sharing water can prepare the way for the gospel to spread to the glory of God.

What would you do if you were faced with going thirsty or drinking contaminated water?

  • The Lord can also change bitter, poisonous waters into sweet waters, which illustrates the way He changes the attitudes of our hearts and the words of our lips: from bitter to kind.

Bitter Water Made Sweet Exodus 15:22Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.[b] 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log,[c] and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.

The First Miracle after crossing the Jordan that Elisha (The leading true prophet of his day) performed in the eyes of the sons of the prophets was that He purified water, with salt. 2 Kings 2:19

Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Even though our lord can see that the city’s location is good, the water is bad and the land unfruitful.”

20 He replied, “Bring me a new bowl and put salt in it.”

After they had brought him one, 21 Elisha went out to the spring of water, threw salt in it, and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. No longer will death or unfruitfulness result from it.’” 22 Therefore, the water remains healthy to this very day according to the word that Elisha spoke.

Jeremiah spoke of how false teaching and judgement in the land were like poisoned water:

Jeremiah 8:14   Jeremiah 9:15   Jeremiah 23:15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

Again, let us listen to the words of Jesus at the fall Feast of Tabernacles (which is what our Thanksgiving is modeled after): John 7:37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

  • True teaching leads to clean water which leads to healthy bodies. Trusting human ideas leads to a sick society. Trusting God’s Word leads to good health in mind, body, soul, spirit, and society.

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  1. Be thankful as the people were to be thankful at the feast of Tabernacles.
  2. Turn to Jesus for your supply of life. Believe the Gospel.
  3. Share your life and water with others with clean water and pure teaching.
    1. Drink water with someone as you share the gospel. (Recent chats over cups of cold water with students.)
    1. Help get clean water to others as a way of sharing the gospel. (Kenya water purification project, Sharing bottled water at a festival.)

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From the pit to the peak

Trash redeemed, riches gathered,

Earth’s treasure lost shall be restored.

The pit loses; seed scattered,

God’s reign descends; the hill gains more.

Us nobodies and our nothings.

Unwanted folks and things wasted.

The Lost are found, God shouts and sings:

Truth uncovered; heaven tasted.

Graves are emptied; bones fleshed out.

Resurrection happens: lives arise!

The trump shall sound, the angel shouts!

Deceased shall live! Grace fills the skies!

May be an image of nature and sky
A sign of promise over a place where senior citizens live.

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The Quest

The hunt, the search, the questioning;

The goal, our end, the destiny.

Where am I from? Where will I go?

Do you wonder or do you know?

Are you lost or are you now found?

The quest for Truth plumbs the profound.

The looking can lead one far from home;

Or guide you back, though once you roamed.

Come to your senses! Use your mind!

Look to your Searcher! Then you’ll find!

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A Reflection on “Organic Community Mental Health”

Wow! This has been a full-full month for me, and perhaps for you as well. It is sometimes said that Community Mental Health serves “the most vulnerable in our community.” However, this can hide the fact that each of us has strengths, and each of us has our own points in time when we are more vulnerable than others.

For over a year, nearly every week I would go out during the COVID pandemic to deliver food to those most in need. Those who for whatever reason were unable to get food for themselves received food delivered from Hope Clinic and other resources to ensure that they stayed fed. At the heights of the pandemic lockdown, nearly 40 households received food assistance in a weekly day of delivery that was very much a drive-door-drop-dash effort. As time progressed, and as fear and restrictions lessened, the numbers of recipients decreased and the depth of visits increased in the nature of the needs that were met to address everything from housing to chore help on a few occasions. Fifty-two weeks of this!

In the past month: My mother in law died and was buried. So, naturally, we went to honor her saintly life with family, to weep with those who weep. We left, having gotten my passport, visa, clear COVID tests, and tickets all just in time. We visited a few places in Indonesia and ate great food. We went from one end of the most densely populated island of the world to the other. We visited the Jerusalem Bible Museum in Jakarta, which is actually the closest I’ve ever been to the land of promise. There I was once again astounded at how integral God’s mercy is to all of life, and the difference the resurrection makes to all of life (No, they did not have any of Jesus’ bones or blood as relics there). I was also reminded of the importance of the gifts of the least and helping the most we can.

Around June 25-26, we learned that a local flood happened in my hometown of Ypsilanti, MI. I was reading through Job a week ago, when I felt slightly ill and took a long nap where I sweat a lot in a hot room and got a bit dehydrated, then returned home after getting 2 NEGATIVE COVID tests. My dear wife Sheila stayed behind Indonesia, monitoring the security cameras and saying one last farewell to me with her brother Jonathan as they hurried me off to the airport in very light traffic through what is normally a very congested Jakarta. They got me water and wished me bon voyage as I ventured homeward. I had to go to prepare a place once more for my bride, so that where I lived, there she could be also.

At home, there was a flooded basement and as the basement was cleaned up on Saturday, I got a positive COVID test result. Over the past weekend, around a dozen folks have come to help me in practical ways. Of course, our faithful postal worker had already delivered the month of missing mail to our doors.: risking life and limb to mow the yard with its deep grass (Darren B.), removing water and debris, sanitizing the basement (Thanks to Orlando Tennyson and Ms Evans of Regal Cleaning Services and his friend with a truck and John Evans of First Baptist Ypsilanti who helped coordinate this), dehumidifying the basement (Thanks to Joe L formerly with ServiceMaster and still a Logistics Officer of the Michigan Army Reserves, and Brent), sorting through piles of accumulated life possessions to put them in the garbage (Thomas, who is normally in Spain), Joe from AAA Insurance services approved the claim for property damages, Colonial Heating & Cooling has scheduled a visit to get us back up to speed with a working furnace and water heater, Ron with Ypsilanti Public Services provided adequate trash stickers to accommodate my extra trash bags that (thanks to travel) fell out of the time frame of everyone else’s 2 weeks of limitless trash pick-up.

A special shout out to Mike Frison of Knox Presbyterian and Every Nations Chapel in Ypsilanti who helped me wake up Monday after a 10 hour nap. Before then I had slept less than 18 hours out of 100 from the time I woke up the day I left Indonesia on Thursday. I would be remiss to neglect to thank my dear friend Mark Vanderput who prays for me regularly and reminded me that it was best that I arrive home first, before Sheila, so that she didn’t have to worry about the clean-up. He contacted many of those above at a time when he was hard-pressed to help himself due to other obligations in Hamtramck. I’m grateful for my Mom and sister and friends who called and listened, prayed for and encouraged me all along the way.

Thanks to all those I met along the way from Jakarta to Ypsilanti, especially the Slave of God and the Treasure who listened patiently as I explained the wonders of Jesus, his love and truth, and they took good news of life’s hope. Thanks to Airline staff of Etihad, of United, and those in Abu Dhabi and Chicago O’Hare airports, and faithful Carl who risked his life to convey me safely from the airport to my home. It has been 15 years since I was so close to being admitted to the hospital due to the stresses of life becoming nearly overwhelming.

I am also grateful Brandie Hagaman, my supervisor at Community Mental Health who offered to help bring gallons milk and orange juice since I cannot go out shopping for myself. More than that, she encouraged me to continue to work as much as I am able once I get my feet on the ground. This will lend just enough dignity to get through the days of isolation and abundant reflection which the quarantine guarantees.

This is how to serve those “most vulnerable.” Usually, I am seeking to serve others in such ways. Now, I was on the receiving end. The Lord gave me grace and wisdom to ask for help and advise people how they could help best. In a very short time, I had a surprisingly, suddenly expanded support network. As I am gaining strength, I will be able to give again to others. Likewise, families, churches, the local agencies and companies and government agencies ideally work together to serve others in their time of greatest vulnerabilities so that in due time they too can get back to work to serve others, as God provides strength, each helping others where the Lord has allowed a person’s weaknesses to become an opportunity for compassion. May the Redeemer restore our community in peace and justice!

With great joy!

Mert Hershberger,

Poet, M.A., Host, Certified Peer Support Specialist, Customer Service Advisor, Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist

~ Walking with people on the road to recovery. ~

When I had lost all hope,

I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord of Hosts.

– based on Jonah’s prayer (2:7 TLB)

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Resting in the Arms of Our Father in Heaven

From somewhere near the Zagros mountains near Erbil and Baghdad:

Last night I had the pleasure of riding on a plane with quite a number of Muslim families. One family in particular stood out.

The mother desperately wanted her girls to sleep and Umm-Binti kept trying to force her girls to go to sleep, but sleep did not come, and the subsequent ruckus was what one might expect from tired toddlers and a frustrated mother.

Meanwhile, Abu-Binti their father was quite a gentleman and held up the girls close to himself, taking turns with them, of course. As soon as the girls would be set down by him, they would cry. The mother tried to pacify them with things to watch and play, but they would either squeal with delight or dejection. Needless to say, quiet and sleep were elusive.

As I mulled over what I what I saw, I was reminded of the teachings of our Lord Jesus, “if you fathers, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven know how to give you what you ask for” and “My father is eager to give you the kingdom.”

What is the greatest gift which God our Father in Heaven could give us? It is not food to eat, houses, paid bills, nor even the charisma of a leader. No, the greatest gift is to give us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, the very presence of God with us.

Of course, I was not convinced that this fellow on the plane knew how his loving care to his desperate daughters on the plane had delighted my soul in the Deliverer, Jesus our Messiah.

So after much pleading with the Lord, I delivered to him a Gospel of John in English and Arabic. When I told him that the book told of another Father whom he reminded me of, he received the gospel with joy and thanksgiving. Will you join me in prayer that this Muslim father, and Muslim fathers around the Middle East whence I drafted this in the air, will indeed turn to the Father of lights and awaken in the Kingdom of Jesus, safer and sooner rather than sorry that they awoke too late?

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Flights of Fancy, Faith, and our Father in heaven.

written 6/15/2021 From somewhere in aerospace over Canada and the USA.

Today aboard an Etihad Boeing 787 (Part of an alliance with United) I was treated to a most unusual mosque visit.

The flight began with an Islamic prayer for travellers. This was accompanied by an image of a mosque complete with dome and minarets.

What followed was the most bizarre guide on how to stay safe in the aircraft. The imagery on the video which was shown in English and then Arabic had no direct reference to an airplane. For example, in a building with modern arabesque features, akin to the inside of the mosque featured in the prayer, one saw oxygen masques suddenly descend from thin air. Along the perimeters of the hallways of the building we saw lighting. 

If you clued into the allusion to a huge flying carpet, you would realise that they wanted you to feel safe and comforted in a mysterious and magical Muslim sort of way. If you were new to flying, I’m sure that the whole video would give one rather little idea of how to stay safe in case of emergency.

The avant garde safety video would perhaps make a conservative or fundamentalist Muslim feel safe and uninclined to undercut the safety of the magical flying mosque. However, if some adverse atmospheric or aeronautic event were to occur, the poor Muslims who didn’t know what to do would have little clue how to respond.

So it is with Islam today: a goose has gotten into the engine and there is no sullen captain ensuring that people know the importance of flying properly. A mosque was never meant to soar on wings. So the whole fragile apparatus of Islam shall before the weight of irrelevance to changes in life. 

However, faith in the messiah is adequate for the challenges of modernity and postmodernist. Christianity can handle the flights of modern human imagination and creativity and land us safely. Why? Christianity consists not of meeting in four walls, but as every reader of the Bible knows, Those who wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as Eagles … not flapping, but soaring high above, unperturbed by landings.

Also, the Christian does not need a safety video in the image of a cathedral. Why? Jesus was quite comfortable sleeping on a boat in a stormy sea and bringing such vessel to safety. Jesus made the tomb his home, what most would consider the most untimely crash landing of all time, and he rearranged geology, physiology, and history to ensure that he could exit in time to meet the third day challenge and still have a day full of busy ministry. Jesus himself went up into the clouds and he shall return, on his schedule, without loss of a single passenger who has sold all he has to buy a ticket to a new heaven and new earth.

This is not an escapist approach to reality though. Those who first mastered the art of flying made astute observations of the world, of birds which God had created to fly and set out to change the history of humanity. And so Orville and Wilbur Wright, the sons of a Christian minister, were encouraged by their father to pursue their dreams and were the first Americans honored with a national monument in their own lifetime.

Has modern aviation been without accident or injury? No. Just as presumptive birds will fly into glass windows or be attached by other birds, or by hungry human hunters; so many modern fliers have become prey of the lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life. However, those who monitor their attitude will maintain the proper altitude and land safely at the home base of our Captain and Carrier, Jesus Christ, the one who proclaims from the heights the everlasting gospel of Him who created the skies, the seas and springs, and the landscape, and all things therein and Who can make even an ordinary, yet real, aircraft a vessel which will be used to unite nations, families, and bring blessings to the most remote tribes on earth.

To God be the glory, who rules on high, immortal, invisible and ever wise and loving to those He carries in His tender mercies. 

But woe to those who would try to make Him come to earth on their time or schedule!!

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Big Prayers

Praying Big Prayers, Living Large Mert Hershberger What is the biggest prayer you have prayed? What was God’s answer? Did you ever stop praying big prayers?

Do you pray only for your own salvation and the salvation of a few individuals close to you, or do you ask God to intervene in the broader world?

  1. Prayer’s Power: Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” What miracle do you and your nation and your world need right now? Will you pray for that?
  2. Prayer’s Reach: Psalm 2:8, “Ask Me, & I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession!” What is the greatest heritage you ever received from a family member? What nations and unreached lands do you want to leave to your family in the Messiah as a legacy of your prayers, giving, and witness?
  3. Prayer’s Authority: 1 Timothy 2:1-2, 4 “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in authority …. God our Savior wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth.” What difference would it make if we would present our needs for godly government more to the Lord than to social media? How can you express support for godly leaders while not creating unhealthy divisiveness?
  4. Prayer’s Impact: Revelation 8:5 “The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth. There were rumblings of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake!” Would you be willing to pray big prayers if it meant you would have to clean up the “mess” of natural disasters and help those who are given needs for you to meet when you pray? What big prayer will you pray this week?
  5. Prayer’s Purpose: Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, plead to the Lord of the harvest to send our workers into His harvest.” Will you pray for relief workers, global and national and local leaders, missionaries and other disciple-makers? Will you give to support these works of God? Will you offer to serve God’s purpose in your generation? Where will you go serve this week?

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The Work of Redemption

Column for Joan Hershberger – drafted by Mert Hershberger on the Lord’s Day, January 3, 2021

When I came to Michigan, I thought the only redemptive work that I would be involved in was preaching the good news of Jesus. However, I soon learned that there are other opportunities for redemptive work. Michigan has very generous redemption values that it places on canned and bottled beverages. Most soda and alcoholic beverage containers have a redemption value of ten cents. That is much higher than the value on the aluminum or plastic alone, so many folks here collect bottles and cans to make ends meet. In fact, it is against the law to throw away redeemable containers in Michigan.

During the severest part of the COVID shutdowns here in Michigan, the stores were not allowing any bottle returns, so I found a lot of extra cans and bottles just laying around in people’s recycling bins. I started to collect them for a couple months and ended up redeeming well over $100 worth over several weeks once the COVID shutdowns ended and stores again allowed customers to redeem bottles. This extra money helped me buy groceries for people to whom I delivered in order to help them make ends meet. I continued to collect cans and bottles in the months following the reopening and kept buying groceries and toilet paper for a handful of people, on an as needed basis.

Once, I was at a bus stop and picked a few cans and bottles out of the trash. A fellow who regularly hangs out at the bus stop and solicits small donations from any willing soul tried to stop me. He said, “You should get a real job. Stop begging for money! You are dirty!” I turned around and talked to him, “Well, I’m not asking anyone for money. I’m on a redemptive mission. These bottles have value, so I plan to redeem them. It’s a crime to throw away what can be redeemed. You can be redeemed too, and you wouldn’t want anyone to throw you away, right?” After that, he lightened his tone and was more friendly again.

On Thanksgiving while my lovely wife fixed a delicious meal for the two of us, I got bored, so I wandered over to a nearby university campus. When I started to find redeemables, I decided to collect them while I was on the phone with my Mom. I ended up scouring half of the campus and collecting bottles and cans worth about $2.50. It’s not often I get paid to talk on the phone!

On New Year’s Day, I again was bored and again went over to the nearby University campus. Again, I made a call to someone and again I picked up $2 to $3 worth of redeemables from the other half of campus. Nobody had picked up any trash since Thanksgiving and the University was basically closed since then due to a rise in COVID cases locally in December. And nobody had gotten any of the cans or bottles since then, so I decided it was high time somebody rescue what could be redeemed.

There is a neighbor who regularly drinks tall beers and discards cans and some Coke bottles too, so I’ll pick up the cans, empty out the remaining beer onto the ground, and take a couple dollars’ worth of bottles and cans home from there every week or two. Sometimes he has even given me whole bags filled with redeemables. Once, he was moved with compassion and gave me a couple $2 bills as well. All I have to do is stop a little off my regular route, sort through the recycling, and rescue what would otherwise go in the garbage.

These cans are such a hot commodity that people will sometimes post on Facebook that they are having some difficult economic times and ask if people will let them pick up cans from their homes. Most of the time, several people will post that cans are available, the person will put gas in their car or buy groceries, and that is the end of it. But recently, a woman who works for the same public service agency as I work for viciously berated a can collector for asking for the help. Because her comments were relayed to me via the agency Facebook page, I gently corrected her and suggested she use more discretion in her online interactions. The next day, when we were both in a webinar on sensitivity towards those who have suffered racial injustice, she was visibly shaken.

My mother taught me to redeem the time, to stretch my money, and that there are no throw-away people. The week of her birthday and anniversary, I will celebrate by redeeming a large bag of cans and bottles, then getting food and toilet paper for people that I serve. Thanks, Mom, for not letting me waste my life!

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