Seeing the Bigger Picture…

Dear Parishioners,

If I’m a little grumpy lately, it’s because I’m busy washing out yogurt containers, wondering how to bundle and tie a stack of newspapers that weighs more than the refrigerator, and trying to figure out which bin I’m supposed to use to throw away a single soiled blueberry container made of cardboard ……..all in order to keep the whales happy.

Yes, my friends, I am the latest victim of recycling. Wait. I know, I know, I know! Before you sharpen your natural wood pencil to write me a scalding, scolding letter on your best pressed junglehemp, let me just assure you that I know. I am well aware of the importance of caring for the earth and being a responsible consumer of its resources. I realize it takes 355 years for a Pamper to return to the elements from which it came and our landfills don’t have that kind of time. I understand the need to fluff up the Ozone. I get why the entire town of Westport no longer permits you choose “plastic” at the check out. Even Sallie McFague’s metaphors of the “world as God’s body” fascinate me.

So why does all this recycling get my grump on? Several reasons. Like most Americans, I hate being told what to do. Give me a choice rather than a command. Also, like many men, I hate doing things in a new way when the old way seemed perfectly fine to me. You see, the dumpster company used to worry about the sorting. We put everything into the garbage and they took it from there. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Now that they’ve changed to “single stream” recycling, I have to make daily—sometimes hourly—trash decisions at my end or, I’m told, the earth suffers and some whale might choke on the net my grapes were sold in. Great. Interactive garbage. Just what I’ve always wanted. On top of that, the hundreds of people I know (Eleanor) who have been faithfully recycling and composting throughout the years, are now a little too smugly slapping recycle stickers on every other wastebasket around here in a kind of happy dance of green triumph.

It’s all too much. I feel like Peter in the Gospel today, a bit overwhelmed and wishing things could return to the way they used to be. He had to change his expectations of the Messiah, even to the point of having to watch his dear friend suffer and die. That was a lot to ask of him, especially when he wasn’t seeing any of the bigger picture yet, but Peter trusted enough and eventually his heart came around.

I’m not crazy about recycling. I know it’s important and effective, but my heart’s not in it yet. Someday, I’m sure I’ll feel differently. I’ll be able to sort without thinking and bundle without grumbling. On that day, the earth and the whales (and Eleanor) will truly rejoice. For now, though, I’ll just start by trying to make the dumpster company happy….

Father John