Prior to my birthday, my son sent me the following comments:

When I moved to Michigan, I thought I would only be involved with the redemptive work of preaching the good news of Jesus. I soon learned about other opportunities for redemptive work. In Michigan,  most soda and alcoholic beverage containers have a redemption value of ten cents which is more than plastic or aluminum. Many collect bottles and cans to make ends meet. It is against the law to throw away redeemable containers in Michigan.

During the severest part of the Michigan COVID shutdowns, the stores did not allow bottle returns. I found many extra cans and bottles in people’s recycling bins and started to collect them. When stores began accepting the bottles, I redeemed them for over $100. That money bought additional groceries and toilet paper for the folks to whom I was assigned to help by delivering groceries to them on an as-needed basis.

Once at a bus stop, as I pulled cans and bottles out of the trash, a fellow who hangs out there soliciting small donations said, “You should get a real job. Stop begging for money! You are dirty!”

I turned around to him, “I’m not asking anyone for money. I’m on a redemptive mission. These bottles have value. 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?”

He lightened his tone and was more friendly.

Thanksgiving Day while my wife fixed the meal, I wandered over to the nearby university campus. When I collect bottles and cans, I often talk on the phone with my mom. That day I scoured half of the campus and collected 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 went to the campus, again made a call, and while I talked, I picked up two to three dollars worth of redeemables from the other half of campus. No one had gathered trash since Thanksgiving because the University closed after another rise in COVID cases. I decided it was high time somebody rescued what could be redeemed.

A neighbor regularly drinks and discards beer and Coke bottles. I pick up the cans and empty any remaining beer onto the ground. From him I redeem a couple dollars worth of bottles and cans every couple weeks. Sometimes he gives me whole bags of redeemables. One time, he compassionately gave me four dollars in cash as well. All this for simply walking off my regular route, rescuing what otherwise went to the dump.

Locally, cans are such a hot commodity that people in economic trouble post requests on Facebook for permission to pick up cans from others. Usually, several people post that they have cans available. The recipient puts gas in their car, buys groceries, and that is the end of it.

However, recently, a co-worker from the public service agency where I work viciously berated a can-collector for asking for the help. Her comments came to me via the agency’s Facebook page. I suggested she use more discretion with her online interactions. The next day during a webinar on sensitivity towards those who have suffered unjustly, she was visibly shaken.

My mother taught me to redeem the time, to stretch my money and that there are no throw-away people. On this week of her birthday and anniversary, I celebrate by redeeming a large bag of cans and bottles, then I will use the cash to buy toilet paper for the people I serve.

Thanks, Mom, for not letting me waste my life.

About jottingjoan

retired former newspaper writer. Many children and grandchildren. One husband.
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