20. Leave the Cans on Top

I believe in separating the cans from the trash.  Yes, that’s it. I don’t do it to save the polar bears or to feed some obsessive-compulsive sickness.  I just want to make life a little bit easier for the malt liquor and urine soaked man digging through our dumpster in the middle of the night.

Life has never given him a break.  My uncle who slept in alleyways for the last half of his life never got a break either. I was lucky enough to have the chance of spending time with him growing up in San Francisco, where the sight of living skeletons lining the walls of luxurious hotels and corporate offices is an accepted way of life.  Passersby saw him curled up against the gate in front of Glide Memorial as a leech of society.  They saw him as just another fiend whose bloodshot eyes lit up as he watched their hard-earned money fall into his outstretched Big-Gulp cup.  I saw him as Uncle Pete.

I know I can’t do much for the homeless and I don’t expect anyone else to feel bad for them. All I ask of myself and of others is to leave the cans on top and imagine the momentary peace this man can have knowing he doesn’t have to claw his way through used tissues and rotten food scraps and to make a of couple bucks.  It’s a small victory in a cold world that doesn’t give two shits about them.  Hell, it might even make them smile.

This whole concept of leaving the cans on top isn’t just solely applicable to homelessness.  It’s a guiding principle for how I would like to live my life. It’s similar to the movie Pay It Forward, but Kevin Spacey creeps me out too much so I would rather use my own slogan.  It’s no secret that everyone in life has those moments where they need something to keep them from bottoming out.   Yet we don’t always make the smallest of efforts to show them that someone cares. Leaving the cans on top and keeping them out of the literal and proverbial dumpster gives everyone the ability to make a stranger’s life better.  And for that brief, anonymous gift of temporary relief, I believe the world is a better place.

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