Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Garbage disposals and napkins

Sometimes it is the little things that stop you in the tracks. I was reading Thoughts to Provoke Your Thoughts, a Atheist blog from the Philippines, when I stumbled across this line.

In America, there exists more than 50 million "garbage disposal machines" that eat up better, more nutritious, left-over food discarded away from American tables.

I had never thought of the scraps of food that I wash away as sustenance for another person, let alone an entire country. It was like a slap in the face. We have so much, and we are so wasteful. It also reminded me of a story.

I remember eating a meal with my wife’s grandmother (Lola) shortly before her death a long time ago. She took a napkin from the container on the  table. She opened the folds of the napkins so that all four quadrants of the thin paper were exposed, and she slowly ripped away a fourth of the napkin. She replaced the remaining three fourths in the holder on the table. When I asked her why she did it, my mother-in-law translated her comments to me. Lola did not want to waste anything. She may need it later. She did not realize that by her standards we have several years worth of napkins in a bulk pack for Costco.

My Lola had lived in the Philippines her whole life. Most of that in a tiny village without electricity. She survived the Japanese occupation, and had a dozen or so kids. She was frugal and proud. Because of her, I met my wonderful Filipina wife and was welcomed by large friendly family. A month does not go by without meeting a new relation. It’s wonderful. She was wonderful.

The last time I saw her was at the Los Angeles Airport before her return to the Philippines. I carried her for a few hundred yards because we could not find a wheelchair. She weighted all of 80 pounds then. She game me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. For some reason, I dream about that last goodbye all the time.

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