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Aaron Johnson: Trash can philosophy

This morning I stopped at a local McDonald’s for breakfast.

As usual I take a table near the back of the dining room to have breakfast and read. In front of my table was an exit and two trash receptacles logically located.

As I read, I noticed a young man, no older than early 20s enter the dining area. He was appropriately dressed in jeans, a tee shirt, and an unbuttoned flannel shirt. His jeans were firmly cinched just below his plaid boxer shorts. He had a thick full beard and well-kept bushy hair. I only noticed him because of his jeans. I had no idea how he kept them on, or why he intentionally wore them low enough for me to see all of his under britches.

As he entered the restaurant, he didn’t make his way to the counter to order. Instead, he opened the doors of the trash, stooped down, and removed one of the plastic trash cans. He then rummaged through the trash and found two large plastic cups. He took them from the trash, replaced the can, closed the door, then proceeded to fill each cup with Coke, put lids and straws in each, then walked out.

It happened so quickly and with such rehearsed precision, that I didn’t know what to do, say, or think. Stunned I sat there for a moment. After a moment, I stood to see where he had gone. He had disappeared.

Still in a bit of shock I walked to the counter. The manager made eye contact with me and she immediately knew something was amiss. With a concerned look she asked, “Is something wrong?”

“No ma’am”, I replied. Then I said, “There is nothing you can do about this, and I am not complaining.”

Then I told her what had taken place.

She shook her head and said, “That is disgusting. But they will do anything to keep from working. We have people who sit in the parking lot and beg for food in 96-degree heat.

“Every time I offer them a job, they leave. I even offer to pay them to pick up trash in the parking lot and they refuse. They would rather beg than work.”

Suddenly, I am more stunned with her comment than I am the trash cup bandit.

When the colonies were young, Captain John Smith is credited with saying, “If a man does not work, he shall not eat.” He said that in light of the fact that many of those who traveled to Jamestown had no idea how hard life was going to be. Gentlemen were refusing to do manual labor and yet ate from the stores of food brought from England. The problem with that is the storehouse will eventually be empty and people will starve.

A strong work ethic is the backbone of our nation. Our country was borne on the backs of strong men  and women who were not afraid to work.

My first job was mowing lawns in my neighborhood. Then, at 13, I landed a job at San Ann number 7 in Boaz. At San Ann I was paid $1.50 per hour and I earned every penny. Minimum wage was about $2 back then. My senior year in high school I worked at Piggly Wiggly in Boaz. I still have the check stubs that show that during that year I regularly worked over 50 hours each week.

I have had some pretty dirty jobs over the years. Few things in life feel better than finishing a hard job, walking away, and knowing you produced something of value.

A dear friend of mine, Ray Bice, used to say, “Do it like you were going to sign your name on it.” When I finish this life, I hope I will have done something well enough that I would be proud to have my name attached to it.

Come to think of it, Captain Smith borrowed that quote.

About 1,600 years earlier a man name Paul wrote a letter to some friends in Thessalonica and said the same thing.

Makes me think the Captain knew something of Paul’s writing.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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