Column: Ready for some trash talk?

by Father Mark Goldasich

The high schools and colleges have started their seasons; the pros are about to officially kick off theirs. Yes, football is definitely in the air and that means it’s time for some trash talk — time to be thinking blue, yellow and white!

To clear up any confusion, maybe I should redo that last sentence: Now that football season is underway, it’s time for trash bag talk — time to be thinking how many rolls of blue, yellow and white bags I need to buy to support this annual fall fundraiser in many of our local parochial schools.

Mind you, these are not your ordinary trash bags. These are “Catholic school” bags — heavy plastic, heavy duty, and just plain heavy to carry when you order a couple of cases of them as I do each year. The blue ones are huge —you could probably fit a Smart car in each one of them; I’m still using up a roll of these that I bought five years ago. My favorites are the yellow “mid size” and the white “kitchen” bags, so I usually stick with these. And by the way, the two cases are not all for me; I divvy them up between family and friends.

This year, though, I’m going to leave a couple of bags in a couple of places — not to use, but as a reminder of this little story, which a parishioner of mine sent me:

One day a man hopped into a taxi and took off for the airport. As they were driving along in the right lane, a car suddenly pulled out of a parking space in front of the cab.

The taxi driver alertly slammed on his brakes, skidded and missed the other car by just a few inches. The other driver whipped his head around when he heard the screeching brakes, honked his horn, and started yelling at the taxi. The cab driver reacted by smiling and waving at the guy.

Seeing this, the passenger in the cab asked, “Why’d you just do that? Why were you so friendly? That jerk almost ruined your car and sent us both to the hospital!”

The cabbie peered over his shoulder and said, “Let me tell you about what I call the ‘garbage truck rule of life.’

“Many people are like garbage trucks: They run around full of garbage — full of frustration, full of anger, full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.”

“Don’t take it personally,” the cab driver continued. “Just smile, wave, wish them well, pray for them, and move on. Whatever you do, don’t pick up their garbage and spread it to other people at work or at home. Don’t ever let the garbage trucks take over your day.” (Adapted from a story in an e-mail; original source is unknown.)

My parishioner added this little comment: “This is a great story. Too bad it’s not that easy to live.”

Well, that’s why I’m going to place a couple of empty trash bags in my home and office: to remind me and to challenge me. Probably all of us at some point have picked up the garbage that others have dumped. We’ve allowed them to transform a perfectly good day or mood into something that, quite frankly, stinks. How much wiser to imitate that cabbie: Be pleasant and move on.

Those empty trash bags, though, will also serve as a challenge to me. I have to admit that, honestly, I’m often the “dumper,” not the “dumpee.” How many times, because of frustration, disappointment or anger, have I dumped garbage on others? I’ll be praying for God’s grace and strength to not let negative things so pile up on me that I spill them into the lives of others.

My parishioner is definitely right. Living the “garbage truck rule of life” is not that easy. It’s a huge task. Let’s at least begin by putting the garbage of our lives in its proper place and not dump it on others.

That being said, I wonder if it’s too late to order some of those big, blue bags.

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