I Can Still Smell the Trash…

As I was sitting on the train this morning riding into work, the mixture of smoke and garbage lingered on my my jacket. Part of me felt sick because of it, but another part of me was broken and crying.

I set out this morning walking to the train with a bouquet of flowers in hand to adorn my desk at work. It was a dreary Monday morning. No sunshine but little water pools on the ground, indicating it had rained over night. But I had my flowers. I really do love flowers. There’s just something about them that speak about beauty, joy, happiness, life…the list can go on. As I was walking down the street this morning with these beautiful flowers in hand, I saw a lady also walking with something in hand, but it wasn’t a beautiful bouquet of flowers; her hands held two trash bags full of cans. As she walked ahead of me, my heart just sank as we approached a nearby alley. I knew that I would continue walking ahead to the train station, but she would be diverted, turn left into the alley and begin parousing the dumpters for cans that could earn her some money for meals or other  daily necessities. She was a short woman, shorter than me, maybe in her fifties, with black hair pulled back into a bun. She didn’t even look poor but it must have been of dire necessity to go looking in dumpters at 8am. I could tell she was a woman who was trying to provide for her family.

Is this a Proverbs 31 woman too?…

I couldn’t walk any further but just stared at her, tears falling down my face. “Lord, what can I do?” Give her the flowers. “But Lord, she obviously needs more than flowers, what can I do?” Tell her that I love her and that I see her. “Lord, I don’t know if I can do this…I want her to know, but I’m scared. Forgive me. I will tell her because your love compels us…”

As she was picking through the dumpster, I said, “Excuse me, ma’am, I just wanted to give you these flowers. They’re from the Lord because He wants you to know that He loves you…” and I couldn’t even get out the rest because I just started crying as I looked down into her eyes as they filled with tears. I fumbled a bit and finished, “and that He sees you too…even now.” I handed her the flowers and her eyes were just wide with disbelief. I gave her a hug and wiped the tears from my eyes. She looked at me confused and in broken english said, “No english. Espanol.” I felt so dumb! She didn’t understand anything I said because she didn’t speak english. And just to prove how NOT Puerto Rican I am, I was begging the Lord in that moment, “Remind me of some spanish phrases!!” Nothing came to mind, except “Jesus” (pronounced hay-soos in Spanish) as I put my hand on my heart. And I wasn’t even sure in that moment if it was Spanish. In my head I was afraid I was saying “Jesus” in Tibetan…I don’t know why, but I was just so afraid the message wasn’t going to be delivered. All of a sudden the image of what I’d seen painted on a wall in Guatemala on on one of my back-packing trips came to mind. What I wanted to tell her is that Jesus loves her deeply and sees her and all I could remember was, “Dio Te Bendiga. Hay-soos” as I put my hand over my heart and smiled.

Her smile was one of the most precious things I have seen and she put her hand over her heart and said, “Gracias, gracias! Igualamente!” And she stood on her tippy-toes to give me another hug.

As I walked to the train, now empty-handed, I stopped and looked back and saw something that broke through the dreary Monday morning. Even as much as it panged my heart, something about it reminded me so much of Christ’s love.

I saw this precious woman still looking in the dumpster for cans, but she held tightly to those flowers. She wouldn’t even put them down to open the big lids on the dumpster. It was just absolutely beautiful…heart breakingly beautiful. I didn’t want to go to work, I just wanted to weep and pray for more opportunities to share the love of Christ in this city. I was gently reminded by the Lord that just because a woman at a dumpster breaks my heart, the people in my office still break His too. They may be more “sophisticated”, but at the end of the day, are we all not foraging in the dumpsters of this world from time to time? Are we all not just as dirty, filthy and smelly and in great need of the incredible grace that pours from the Savior’s hands, feet and side? I have been the woman at the dumpster needing to know there’s a God who sees and loves me; I’ve been the Samaritan woman at the well in need of Living Water; I have also been the woman caught in adultery for chasing other loves in this world, but yet was greatly pardoned. Even though I was filthy before Him in those moments, He still beckoned me with a cleansing love for that day – each day, even today. He meets us in the dumpster to tell us how much we’re loved and valued.

Even when the world may put you on blast, Christ doesn’t need a mega-phone to declare His love. The Cross did. The Cross does. And He’ll come to us, face-to-face, intimately just to tell us.

I don’t mind the smell of the trash on me today, because it reminds me of how great the Father’s love is and He’s not the slightest bit concerned of getting a little dirty so that I can be made clean.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10:22


7 thoughts on “I Can Still Smell the Trash…

  1. I’m in a puddle of tears on our living room floor!! Oh how beautiful and incredible is the Lord our God!!! Thank you for sharing this story Shelly. It just inspires me to look for Christ in every face and in every circumstance that I see!!!

    LOVE YOU =) –Jamie Kay

  2. Praise Him! Praise Him for working through you to share His love for others. Amazing, amazing post. Tears of joy that the word of God was spread today. I just adore you, friend. I love your heart and what He is doing in you. 🙂

  3. Shelly, this is so beautiful! I felt like I was right there with you and your Monday morning encounter…. praying for what the Lord has in store for you and that it will be exactly right!!

  4. Thank you for sharing that friend! What a beautiful story… thank you for the fresh reminder that it all comes down to loving Jesus, by loving his people. God, would you fill us with your love for others over and over again!

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