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  • Writer's pictureShelly Bandelman

Scissors and Rubbish

I threw a pair of scissors in the rubbish. They were just a pair of cheap Dollar Tree scissors that had long ago lost their sharp edges. The final straw was the stripping of the rivet holding the blades tight against one another. So, I threw them away. Just like that! I pushed open the lid of the rubbish bin and put them in.

I had to stop and make a conscious decision to put them in the rubbish and not set them aside to try and dispose of another way. In Uganda, everything I put in the rubbish is a potential attraction for a small band of children who dig through rubbish to find any little thing they can sell, trade, or use. Empty bottles and cans, broken toys, stained and torn clothing, pieces of rope, pretty paper, shiny things, EVERYTHING is attractive when you are desperate.

I have a heart conundrum with these children. On one hand, I don’t want them sifting through my rubbish. It’s dangerous and messy. I throw away rotten food, waste material, and sharp items. It’s just not safe. They also leave a huge mess behind as they ransack the bin.

On the other hand, I feel for them in their desperation. To be so hungry, so needy, that you have to dig through the rubbish to survive is heart wrenching. For many, this is their family’s livelihood. It does no good to report them to their parents; their mothers are the ones who sent them to dig through my rubbish. They will clean, sell, and use it all. Even a pair of completely useless, broken scissors would have some value in their impoverished world.

I know many of you are saying, “Well, we have poor children in America.”

And I will agree to a point. There are poor children everywhere. Jesus even said, “The poor you will have with you always…” However, there are levels of poverty. The poverty I am speaking of has no government assistance available, no school lunch programs, and no neighbors who donate to Toys for Tots. The poverty I am speaking of is so ingrained in a society that even the hope to rise above it is gone. Dignity and digging through rubbish go hand in hand when poverty is king.

Some year back, when I was new to the world of abject poverty, I threw away a pair of Noah’s holey underwear. My housekeeper, Juliette, retrieved them from the rubbish and put them outside on the veranda. I found them later that day and threw them away. She again retrieved them.

“Julie, why do you want those?” I asked.

“I will give them to my little neighbor boy,” came her quick response.

“But they are full of holes!” I said.

“But he has none!” her statement broke my heart.

So today, as I easily threw away a pair of scissors, I rejoiced that children won't be digging them out of my rubbish, but my heart still broke for those who must.

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