On the drive home from school yesterday, my son told me there was a password he needed to remember for a computer program at school. Apparently, his teacher had written it down on a post-it note and he brought it home the day before.
“Mom” he says “I thought I had it memorized but now I can only remember part of it.”
“Okay, well, where did you put the piece of paper? You can look at it again when you get home.”
“I threw it in the trash,” he says.
“What? Why would you throw it away?”
“I thought I had it memorized,” he says again.
“But, Honey, even if you have it memorized, you don’t throw it away. You keep it in a safe place. Can you ask Ms. Felice about it tomorrow?”
“I don’t want to, Mom. She gets really upset. I keep forgetting it.”
I can hear the dread in his voice.
“Are you certain you threw it in the trash?” I ask.
“Yes, the kitchen trash, but I’m pretty sure we already took it outside.”
“Well, all right, let’s look for it,” I tell him as we pull into the driveway.
We both get out of the car and head to our outdoor trash can. I lift the white kitchen bag out of the container and we go to work looking for the discarded yellow post-it note. As we search, my mind drifts to the folks in our world who must sift through trash in order to survive for the day. My son and I are looking for a tiny slip of paper that will prevent him from getting in a little trouble at school. As I hunt around old macaroni noodles, coffee grounds, and Styrofoam, the reason seems so trivial in comparison. Yet, I’m compelled to help my son. My son is a lot like I was when I was that age. I know the anxiety that a little post it note can cause. I hated disappointing my teachers. So here I was sifting through trash in order to spare my son a little pain.
We search the outside trash with no success and finally head inside.
“I’m sorry, Honey. Are you sure we already took the trash out?”
“I think so,” he says. “The trash can was more than half-way full when I threw it in.”
“Well, before we give up, let’s check the bag that’s still here in the kitchen.”
I lift several items out of the bag and there it is…a soggy yellow post-it note.
We transfer the password to a fresh piece of paper and I tell my son to keep it somewhere safe. We toss the old note away again.
I know I can’t bail my son out of trouble all the time. I know there are times he needs to suffer the consequences of his choices. But yesterday, I chose to help him. The answer he needed was accessible…we just needed to take the time and do the work to find it. I think that was the bigger lesson for my son to learn this time. I wanted him to know, that sometimes, persistence pays off.
The more I thought about this trashy scavenger hunt, the more it reminded me of finding healing and relief in our lives. So often, the solution to our problems can only be found when we choose to sift through all the junk. We have to go back and confront it again. We keep searching because we know that salvation exists. We cling to hope. The search is often dirty and uncomfortable work. But, when we finally uncover the answers and the relief we set out to find in the first place, then the journey is more than worth it.