Monday, June 09, 2008

Behold, the humble baby stroller

Ah, baby strollers. Conjures up mental images of sweet-smelling babies dressed in lace, ribbon, and bows, being pushed slowly enough to let the general public see just how precious they are. How could someone see a stroller in the attic and not wax nostalgic about those wonderful bygone days when little Mary had rosy cheeks and blond curls and Daddy was so proud to roll her through the mall.

But I've seen a whole 'nuther use for the lovely stroller recently. I wouldn't know about this had I not been driving my school bus through poverty areas of Dallas. Here's the story: On Haskell Avenue in South Dallas, there is a metal recovery company that pays cash for cans. There is a surprisingly large number of homeless or almost homeless men in that area whose only income (apparently) comes from selling aluminum cans to this company. These guys go through the dumpsters behind the beer joints on Samuell Blvd. looking for cans. They are very visible on Tuesdays and Fridays because those are trash pickup days and people roll their trash receptacles out to the curb...and those are searched by these desperate men for more empty soda and beer cans.

The men have honed their skills in this primitive seek-and-find game to the point that they can fill up several 30-gallon bags with cans. But when you don't own a vehicle to stuff multiple bags of cans into, your daily survival routine becomes problematic. Some turn to grocery carts, stolen from the very few grocery stores in the neighborhood. But the police are onto this practice. Plus, the stores hire folks to scour the area, looking for abandoned and stolen carts. So the alternative vehicle has become the somewhat lowly baby stroller. It is the cargo hauler of choice for this segment of our society. And the bigger, the better. I have seen as many as five full bags of cans perched perilously on the stroller as it is pushed down bumpy side roads. And these tattered, dirty men all end up rolling toward the reclamation plant on Haskell.

If you turn your brain off, the sight is comical. But I can't do that - which is surprising because I try to find humor in nearly every situation. The irony overwhelms me. A desperate man pushing a stroller around, loaded down with a few dollars of aluminum cans, when 40, 50 years ago...maybe he was pushed down the sidewalk in a similar vehicle by a proud mom or dad...who had no idea that this baby would end up pushing a stroller for an entirely different reason...

And most people in the Metroplex are blissfully unaware that stuff like this goes on. Once, on impulse, I ran over to one of these men and handed him a twenty. Embarrassed by this for some reason, I quickly ran back to my bus. Once there, I looked back at him...and he was standing totally still, staring my way, holding the bill in his hand. No words, no jumping up and down, nothing except eyes locked on me as though I were Lot's wife.

I'm really glad God lets me see stuff like this.

1 comment:

Lynn Leaming said...

Thanks Tim for giving me another reason to give thanks today for there but by the grace of God go I.
It does cause you to think differently thinking of each person as someone's son or daughter.