Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Bottle Man

I gotta say, I live in a great community. Its not fancy or remotely upscale but that doesn't matter. The building I call home was built in the late 60s and even though its well maintained, its slowly falling apart. Despite issues with the hot water system, water pouring into the elevator shaft from heaven-knows-where, and a mysterious but unavoidable odor that has permeated the hallway (my nose tells me its a combination of curry, burnt sugar, weed and stale cigarette smoke...), I couldn't love this place more.

There's 30 units in this building, each with their own share of problems. My tub leaks, my stove and fridge are from the dark ages and my carpet is in sorry shape. But it doesn't bother me because I know that in the other 29 units above and beside me there are at least 60 other lives that are being lived out. Those lives include the guy who rips out of our parking lot on his motorcycle with a deafening exhaust, the lady who takes her license plate off her car for fear it'll be stolen and the students above me who play poker on their balcony til all hours. And ya know, they're all so darn friendly.

Most of us are considered 'low-income' but the fact that we're below the poverty line doesn't stop the acts of kindness I see almost every day. Whether its the lady upstairs loaned me a cup of icing sugar (which I paid back with a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - to her delight) or the guy in the unit beside me who asked to borrow my house phone so he could find his misplaced cell phone, we're all part of a community.

But my favourite neighbour by far is a fellow who lives in the apartment complex behind my building. His name is Manfred and he collects pop bottles. He's been retired for a number of years and has taken on this mission - to seek and collect pop bottles from the four corners of our neighbourhood. And gosh, the friends he's made - myself included! Manfred starts his rounds at 9am and I often see him returning home as late as 8pm. He keeps a grocery cart at a house just two doors down from my building where he stores all those bottles and cans, fills that cart and treks over to the bottle depot, a 30 to 45 minute walk. Every. Freaking. Day. Including Saturday. Rain or Shine. Snow or Sleet. He's out there, collecting bottles.

I met Manfred about two years ago. I was accosted by him, this elderly man with a garbage picker-upper who was searching through the garbage and recycling bins behind my building on this self-imposed mission. He wanted to know if I had any pop bottles in the garbage I was about to throw out. I didn't but in my storage room, I had two garbage bags full! Against my policy of never allowing strangers in my unit, I let Manfred come in and collect those recyclables. I figured I could take him if he tried any funny business!

Manfred and I now have a policy. As I collect bottles and cans from family and friends, I leave them in in plastic bags on my ground-floor balcony. And just now, Manfred has come to collect another bag of recyclables courtesy of my parents. I can only guess at how much money Manfred has raised, all for Samaritans Purse. They do a lot of good work in developing countries and certainly benefit from Manfred's tireless fundraising.

I'm blessed to live in a neighbourhood, that though lacking in monetary wealth, is so rich in friendships and community. Every time I think of moving, I'm reminded of the lives being lived out around me and how much I would miss my daily interaction with this cast of unusual characters! I'm blessed, indeed!

Moving Forward with Joy.

2 comments:

  1. I agree. I have a blog of my own at http://thoughtsfromanoldsoul.blogspot.com/?m=1

    ReplyDelete