The Zabbaleen. These are the people of Cairo who clean up all the garbage. They are a Coptic Christian minority. They are known to be able to recycle 80% of all trash and have pigs to eat the organic portion. No one can do better. The best industrialized countries can do is recycle 20%. These people are now under heavier prosecution, their pigs have been killed, and Cairo garbage is piling up in the streets.
Once upon a time, there was a little town not too far from here with people who were not too different from us called Sunny Forest. Sunny Forest was a very nice place to live, with very nice people. They even had a sign that said, “Welcome to Sunny Forest, a very nice place to be.”
All the people in Sunny Forest got along very well and life was very good there. However, there was this one growing problem—trash. You see everyone in Sunny Forest liked to keep a very neat and clean house, so at first, people started putting their garbage in boxes. They stored these boxes in their garages and attics. Then, when these places started getting full, the garbage began to pile up in their back yards. After a while, the very nice town of Sunny Forest began to have a very bad smell!
This simply would not do! Something must be done! Such a very nice place needed some way to fix the problem and very quickly! So all the townspeople of Sunny Forest got together and decided they needed to have a Mayor. They elected the smartest, bravest and wisest person in Sunny Forest and put him to the task. However, it seemed to be a very difficult problem to resolve.
Laws were passed forbidding people from creating more garbage, but that didn’t work. Burning/Burying Programs were instituted but they didn’t work either—the smell was even worse! All the citizens of Sunny Forest were getting very angry with the Mayor. Why oh why won’t he save us from drowning in all this garbage?
Then one day, the very nice Mrs Smith saw what looked like a homeless man PICKING UP TRASH. He was, of course, on the OTHER side of the train tracks, but it was quite amazing! Someone—one of those people—had left a bag of garbage on the side of the road and this man picked it up, put it in a cart and took it away. Hmmm, the very nice Mrs Smith thought to herself, I wonder what would happen if I put some of my garbage beside the road. So, early that next morning, she filled a big bag with lots of her very smelly garbage, put it beside the road and went back inside to watch and see what happened. Sure enough, the same man came by, picked up her bag and put it in his cart! Miracle of miracles!
He was a strange looking man. Very disheveled, very dirty and dark and covered in very strange tattoos. Mrs Smith thought that she could even smell him over the stinking garbage left in her back yard. Well, what would you expect, she thought, clearly he is from the OTHER side of the train tracks, probably homeless and he is messing around with garbage. Pew. Of course he’d be very smelly.
Soon, word began to spread and everyone would put their garbage in great big bags beside the road and the man would come by, put it in his cart and take it away. It was quite amazing. No one knew what happened with the garbage and, frankly, no one really cared. Sunny Forest was back to being a very nice place to be, plus there were more important things to worry about now. For a long time Sunny Forest had been in competition with Dillsboro for the title of Nicest Town in the County, and that certainly took precedence over worrying about anything else. The Mayor had things under control. He was such a good Mayor and really took care of the very nice town of Sunny Forest.
Every day, the garbage man came by, picked up everyone else’s garbage, put it in his cart and rolled it away, down the road, across the tracks, out of town and up into the hills on an old country road. People pretty much stayed clear of the garbage man. After all, he did smell, he was dirty and, with all those tattoos, he was very strange. He would sometimes wave at people, and always seemed very friendly, but really, who wants to associate with a garbage man? After all, this was a very nice town with very nice people.
One day, after the people of Sunny Forest had put their garbage beside the road, the garbage man did not come by with his cart to pick it up. Well, people thought, perhaps he was sick. Then one day turned into two and three and four. Finally, some of the townspeople decided to go investigate and see when the garbage man would get back to work. So off they went, down the road, across the tracks, out of town and up into the hills on the old country road. After a while, they knew they were going the right direction because they began to see pieces of trash beside the road. More and more as they went. When they finally turned a very sharp corner and headed down into a very shadowy valley, they were completely shocked by the site in front of them.
The valley was full of garbage! Bags and boxes. Smelly and dirty. Everywhere they looked there was garbage. In the very center of the very smelly valley was an old house and outside the house was a very large mountain of garbage. The townspeople braved the stench and headed down into the valley and as they got closer, they realized there was someone partially buried in that huge pile of garbage! Looking closely, they recognized the dirty, tattooed body of the garbage man. Oh my, the townspeople all said, he took all our garbage home with him! It was the first time some of them had ever been up close to the garbage man and one of them pointed to his tattooed hand and said Look!
On the palms of his very dirty, very calloused, very scarred hands were the words: I Love You.
Story from works of Fr. Ed Hays . . .