Friday, March 15, 2013

Waste Not

When I went to the water cooler at work today, I saw that the overflow tray that catches the drips when people fill up their water bottles, had some overflow in it - I've seen it more full, but it was just the right amount of water that I needed to water my smaller spider-plants. So, I removed the tray and headed back to my desk. 

Someone saw me carrying it and shot me a quizzical look. "I have this aversion to waste," I quipped. "My plants could use this."

When I was done, I put the tray back and went to my desk to resume working. In the back of my mind was the old adage, "Waste not, want not." 

Usually when I think about something that normally doesn't cross my mind, I start listening - hard - because that's about when that little voice inside of me comes along to teach me something. Or remind me of something. 

Waste not.

"Man Stacking Coins" courtesy of ponsulak at

My parents grew up in the Depression, which started in the late 1920s and lasted up until World War II was over. Ever-present in our home life in the 1960s and 1970s was that sense of our parents' horror at the thought of wasting anything - from soap to food to seeds for the garden. While that did lead to the tendency to overeat (clean up everything on your plate, don't let it go to waste...) it did instill in me the awareness of the price of things, of how far a dollar went, of living on a tight budget. I learned from that atmosphere to be satisfied with less, to not wish so much for what was beyond my grasp. I learned that pennies actually counted. Sometimes they made the difference between buying a bag of potatoes and leaving it on the shelf.

And when I did receive something that was "extra" - like the single-speed, CCM bicycle I got for my birthday when I was 11 - I appreciated it all the more because I knew how many things my parents went without ... in order to save up enough money to buy it for me. 

There is another side to "Waste Not."  It has to do with the inherent value in the things that have no price. Honesty. Integrity. Faith. Love. Such things are never to be wasted, devalued, sullied, cheapened. They are part of my character, ideals I believe in, truths to which I hold - and when I get too close to the clean, clear edges between what feels right and what is wrong - that to me is such a waste of ... of me. It's then that I feel devalued. Dirty.

By the same token, it doesn't matter whether it's at church, at home, at work, or out in public: when I right a wrong, when I make a difference, when I cleave to the ideals I hold dear (even if nobody else agrees with me at the time) then I can look at myself in the mirror and like who I see. I feel as though the gift that God intended me to be to the world - however small or large that sphere of influence is - has not been wasted. At least for today. 

I even smile at myself. 

That's a pretty big deal.

Perhaps next time, I'll talk a bit about "Want Not." 


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