Tough Business, Being Human

There’s a NIM bin across the street from my clinic. I watch people walk by it on the sidewalk. Most people ignore it. Occasionally someone stops to look at its contents.  Once in a while, someone picks something off the top and takes it away.

I watch, fascinated, when this happens.  I think i’m afraid, too.  Afraid of what my life might be like if that were me.  I know i’d be a bit frightened if that person looked across the street at me and saw me staring.

Recently, i met a friend whose dad became a NIM bin aficionado when he retired. It began in a small way, with him seeing what looked like a perfectly good doll of some kind on the top of a bin near his house, and thinking, hey, I’ll bet my granddaughter would like that.

It grew from there. At some point he brought home his first vacuum cleaner. Most vacuum cleaners stop working, he says, because they’re dirty, and people don’t know how to clean them. He cleans them, and gives them to people who might need them. Now, having given his kids and friends many rounds of vacuum cleaners, he tells them to put them out with their garbage if they’re of no use. He also tells them they’d be crazy not to use a perfectly good machine.

His house is filled with vacuum cleaners, toasters, computers, lawn mowers, microwave ovens, blenders, lawn ornaments, and kids’ toys.

This is not a guy who just stops to look at contents. This guy climbs right in. Talk about reducing and recycling.

He’s had a few injuries from falling in and out of the bins. But he’s 70. That happens.

Recently, the cops told him he has to stop shopping in the bins. Who knows why, and it torments him to think of all of that great stuff going to waste, but he’s moved on to blue boxes and garbage cans in his neighbourhood.  He shops at the end of your driveway, now.

On a recent trip to B.C. to visit his son, he took a lawnmower that had been left by someone’s curb. When he got it out of his truck, it started on the first pull. He took it back to the owner’s house. It turned out the guy had gone in the house for a coffee. When he’d come out to finish the lawn, the mower was gone. There were no hard feelings.

The point of this story is not to suggest that every NIM bin shopper is a hobbyist who lives in a comfortable home in your neighbourhood.  It is not even to point out the obvious: that every single one of them is someone’s dad, or mom, or son or daughter, that every single one of them is trying to improve his life or someone else’s, and is helping the planet in the process.

What his story makes me most aware of is that i’m so often afraid, even if it only feels like slight nervousness, of so many things i see during the day: NIM bin shoppers, people who are intoxicated on the street, the mentally ill, angry people, two thirds of what i hear on the news.

It reminds me that i am not “at one” with my community or myself.  Yet.  And this story helps me feel better.

I think we should tell more of these.

Thanks for the conversation,


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One Response to Tough Business, Being Human

  1. Victoria Shepherd says:

    Love it. Always a laugh or a cry or some emotion i’ve forgotten i can feel everyday. We so quickly skim by the realities of our everday lives. I love the reminder to slow down and see what passes us by – and feel what we feel.

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