Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas from the Dumpster

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”  James 1:17 (KJV)

I don’t remember the exact year, but I was somewhere around five years old.  Dad’s work had been unsteady, and we were struggling financially.  Christmas was coming, and no one in our household had any idea how we would buy gifts.  We had pretty much decided there wouldn’t be much of a Christmas—at least not in the way of giving and receiving gifts.  But then one day, it all changed.

Dad used to describe himself as a “jack-of-all-trades, yet master of none.”  He had a little bit of knowledge in the area of plumbing, electrical, car mechanics, all types of maintenance, and a host of other things.  He was the best improviser I have ever known.  He could take almost anything that was broken and rig up some way to fix it.  If he didn’t have the right parts, he would create them out of the most unlikely objects.  Dad could do a lot of things, but one of his most enjoyable “skills” involved trash-picking.

Yes, you read it right—Dad loved to go through trash.  He loved to see if there was anything salvageable that he could reinvent, re-use, or recycle into something useful.  He could very easily have been the man who coined the phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  He worked for a while for the sanitation department and rode on the back of a garbage truck.  Dad was a very humble man, so positions that other people would find degrading, didn’t affect him or make him feel degraded in the least.  He wasn’t one for caring what other people thought of or said about him, and he didn’t have an ounce of foolish pride in him.  He just accepted things as they were, and he made the best of the hand he had been dealt.

He loved his work with the sanitation department, obviously not because of the horrible smells he had to endure while riding on the back of the truck waiting for the driver to stop so he could empty people’s trash cans, but for the “goodies” he would find from time to time.  I remember one particular day when he came home with a beautiful crocheted afghan that someone had carelessly tossed on the top of their trash.  Mom washed it thoroughly, and my family used it for years.  I still remember its vibrant color scheme and how pretty it looked on the back of our couch.

Dad had a very dear friend named Jimmy, and he would sometimes enlist Jimmy in his trash-picking endeavors.  Dad was a husky, strong man, and Jimmy was considerably thinner and more limber.  Now, you can choose to believe the following story or not, but I can assure it is absolutely the honest truth.  During Dad and Jimmy’s trash-picking escapades, Jimmy would climb up on Dad’s shoulders, Dad would stand outside of garbage dumpsters, and Jimmy would dive in.  This was way before the term “dumpster-divers” was invented.  Who knows?  Maybe someone observed their method and came up with that term! 

Jimmy’s family was struggling, too, and at the time, he and his wife, Dorothy had two little boys—  Jimmy, who was about a year older than me, and David, who was the same age as me.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, so right before the above-mentioned Christmas, Dad and Jimmy decided to go out trash-picking.  In their search, they came across a toy store and stumbled upon a dumpster goldmine in the back of the store!  Now that I am grown and know how much it means to Kevin and me to see the thrill in Zachary’s eyes at Christmas, I can only imagine how Dad and Jimmy felt when they discovered what was in that dumpster!  It must have felt like the ultimate trash-picking treasure chest!

Once again, Jimmy climbed on Dad’s back, while Dad stood outside the dumpster.  Toy after toy after toy came to the surface, as Jimmy searched through the rubbish.  All of them had some slight defect, just enough to make them “unsellable,” but they were brand-new in their original boxes!  They brought the toys home, and what a Christmas we had!  I will never forget the thrill in my heart, when my Daddy handed me a beautiful Snow White doll that talked when you pulled her string!  Even though she had a minor imperfection and stuttered a bit, it never made any difference to me.  For years, I loved and cherished her, and she and I spent many happy hours together.  Little Jimmy and David felt the same about their toys, and Christmas was extra special for all of us that year.

I look back on that Christmas as one of the happiest ones of my childhood.  It didn’t matter to any of us where our toys came from—we were just so grateful to have toys.  To us they were good and perfect gifts, and our hearts were filled with thanks to God for making it possible for us to have them.  
After all, every good and perfect gift comes straight from Him, no matter where we find it. 


  1. :)Smiles!!! This was funny and sweet! My dad loves to see what "treasures" are in and around the dumpsters at the end of their dirt road. Dad doesn't go out much because of his health, but he does still haul off the trash. Other than doctor visits or a quick trip to the store, going to the dumpsters is sometimes the highlight of his day. He doesn't jump in though..hahahah. He has a gripping stick. He has collected appliances, lamps, motors, and stuff that contained copper wire so that he could rip the copper out and sell it. It would give him something to do. He would sit on the edge of the couch, with all his tools on the coffee table, ripping copper from wires for several hours during the day. He actually made a couple hundred dollars. Occasionally he would bring other stuff home, and some of it was very nice. Mama has a large, like new crock pot that he found. He has found nice drills and other tools that work fine. He enjoys it, but not as much now since the county set up cameras.
    You and I have too much in common. :)smiles!
    Love ya.

    1. Oh, my! That is TOO funny!!! Your Dad and my Dad would have been best buds. It is amazing the things Dad used to bring home, too. He was such a dear, humble, precious, down-to-earth person. I miss him SO much. I love recalling the memories of him, but, at the same time, they can be so painful, as I miss him and know we will never make more of those memories. Cherish your time with your Mom and Dad...I know you do already. Yes, we have a ton in common, that's for sure!!! Love you!

  2. I loved reading this. It reminded me of my grandparents Duncan. We kids loved going to the dump with them! Oh the treasures we found:) I still have many things from them but I know for sure the buttons in all her button boxes came from clothes she would get from the dump and use all useable parts. Their son, my dad was much like your dad Cheryl. He passed away two years ago from lung cancer and I miss him so much sometimes. I am sorry for your loss of such a special friend as Jimmy. I will pray that you find wonderful peace in the upcoming days.

    1. Aww...these sound like wonderful memories!! That is so neat that she saved all of those buttons. What a great idea! That is so sad that their son passed away. I miss my Daddy so much. In June, he will have been gone from us for 15 years. Hard to imagine. It sounds like the man you spoke of and my Dad would have been great friends. Thank you so much for your kind words and prayers during the loss of Jimmy. I so appreciate you stopping by! God bless you and comfort you, also.