It’s Going To Take Some Sacrifice

The prayer card read: “Pray for peace in the Middle East.”

You have heard the sayings – “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” “You can always find someone else worse off than yourself.”

Human beings have a tendency to measure the intensity of our personal pain and suffering against that of others. By that standard I am not suffering at all. My dear ones are safe, employed, loved and engaged in life. However, in the midst of such abundant blessing, I am able to find something to whine about. I can paint myself to be the victim of some societal injustice.

I grew up with a genetic disdain for dogs making deposits on my turf. I have a memory of my peace-loving father standing at our back door with a BB Gun letting a neighborhood canine have it. This critter had pooped on our property one time too many. Caught in the act, my father decided to teach it a lesson it would not forget. I don’t know if this was legal. I’m less certain if it was ethical. And it may be that I have conjured up this image and that it exists only in the recesses of my childhood recollections. But I carry that image and all the backyard rage associated with it in my being.

The prayer card read: “Pray for peace on earth for all.”

Every Tuesday morning I pull our garbage can away from the side of the garage and roll it out to the corner of the driveway. I am not required to do this. I do it so as to make the collection of our trash as easy as possible for those angels who come around every week and haul my week’s refuse away. I even shovel the area when it snows to ensure the easiest collection possible. (I do the same for our recyclables.)

The trash is collected between 9 and 10 AM. I arrive home for lunch around midday. I look into the trash receptacle to ensure it has been collected.  I then roll the receptacle back to its position next to the garage.

Every Tuesday for the past three weeks as I have peered into the container to make sure the garbage has actually been collected I have been confronted with a surprise deposit. There, at the bottom of the receptacle, lies a small plastic bag – green on two occasions, brown on the other. It is a bag of dog poop. Some neighbor of mine has been out walking their dog, and some time between the moment the garbage has been picked up and the time I arrive to move the can, their dog has exercised its right of removal and they have deposited the remains into my otherwise empty receptacle.

I know that if I leave it in the bottom of that barrel the people who come to collect our trash will not reach down to pick that little package up. In fact, they couldn’t reach down for it – the receptacle is too deep. They would have to turn the receptacle over and dump the dump out onto the ground and then pick it up. We typically have one bag of garbage which is easily extracted from the receptacle; the Sanitation Engineers wouldn’t even see the small bag of sh*t.

The prayer card read: “Pray that my family will learn the true meaning of Christmas.”

I have considered some options.

First – I could set up a kind of “stake-out” – I could devote a Tuesday morning to staying at home. I could watch, wait, and then apprehend the offending human. (This is not the dog’s fault. When ya gotta go ya gotta go. I understand that.) Once apprehended I could confront them and tell them (ask them?) to please not place their dog’s doo in my garbage receptacle. I could congratulate them on the fact that they have taken that first step of picking up the mess off the ground and then gently but firmly remind them that “Phase Two” of this important project is to take the stuff home.

A second option I’ve considered – one that is more passive-aggressive – is to put a sign on my garbage receptacle pleading with people to please not use my receptacle for a temporary resting place for their pet’s defecations. I would try to word it sensitively, but with a bit of an edge to let them know that I’m serious. Of course, someone could come along, rip off the sign, toss it in the bottom of the receptacle and throw dog crap on top of it.

Every Sunday in our Worship Service people write down prayer concerns that are collected. Later in the service we share them aloud, with each petition concluding with the words: Lord, in your mercy; Hear our prayer.

The prayer card read: “For my friends and my family. And for my cat.”

I was explaining this situation and my aggravated state of being to a friend recently. He recounted for me the time he was out working in the yard. He failed to see the steaming deposit recently left in the snow by a passing growler. It wasn’t until later when he went inside, his boots cold and frozen, that he would discover his misfortune. Having placed his boots on the radiator to dry and warm them, it didn’t take long before the apartment was filled with the stench of the freshly steaming manure, mixing with the melting snow from the deep grooves in the boot tread. In his own way he cursed the culprit who thoughtlessly let their dog roam the neighborhood whilst indiscriminately leaving its gastrointestinal waste wherever he happened to be at the time of compulsion. We momentarily reveled in our shared frustration and the recollections of the pungent aromas associated with this unhappy reality of communal life.

We then discussed a third option. I could check the receptacle every week, be grateful that whoever is doing this is actually picking up their dog’s crap off the ground, tip the can over and dump the baggie out and bring it into our garbage to await the end of the week at which time it would be collected with our trash. Would it be to high a price to pay for the hope of peace in our world?

I think that’s what I’m going to do. It’s a small sacrifice to make. Can I do it with forgiveness in my heart? Can I do it and love the perpetrator?

The prayer card read: “Please help me to help others.”

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.