[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]
Trash disposal systems are Herculean efforts, preserving the scent and cleanliness of our neighborhood. The production of waste is an essential component of human experience. Where there is human activity, especially human progress, you can be sure you’ll find plenty of waste there too. Look down our street at the houses. Think too of the houses you can’t see. We all have trash, and it all must be accounted for, dealt with.
What would life look like if we did not dispose our waste? Our home would be Egypt, afflicted by great plagues.
An odor as thick as water would drown the house. Gnats and flies would storm inside. Our walls would weep greasy tears, and I would find more animals here than just Whitman and Ash. Our neighbors might call the police, and perhaps we would be evicted after a while. Darkness would descend, the electric company having turned their back on us. And, worst of all, they may take you away from us considering the great stain of our neglect. Or we would at least wear the scented tattoo of unsanitary living, revealing to our friends our inability to manage basic issues.
And truly, we’d be embarrassed to go out, to be smelled. We’d stay at home, growing prouder of our towering filth. Playing catch with banana peels, sprinkling cat litter over carpet, and building forts of soggy cardboard boxes and sweat-soaked blankets. We would love our life to death.
But this is imaginary. In reality, we put our peels and papers in odor-proof trash bags, which hides in a sliding compartment until it is full. Then we carry it outside and pile it in the garbage bin by our garage. And on Fridays, those good days, we place that bin at the edge of our lawn, as close to the street as possible. No more hiding, no more waiting. The garbage truck recognizes what we admit, he sees our confession in the disposed, and he places it on his own pile and takes it far away.
But know this, learn this well: if you have not seen where your problems are taken, if you have not seen how your mess is cleaned, then it still exists. The world still holds it, still smells it, and the stench will find its way back to you.