Out on the curb

Saturday afternoon, Aaron took me for a walk around the block and we ended up at our good friends’ house around the corner for a few times down the slide and some fun playing catch with their big pink ball. As we were leaving their house to come back home, a piece of furniture that had been stuck out on the curb caught my eye. It was an old, beat-up dresser that no longer had any drawers, and I was struck by a sense of familiarity as I looked at it.

Aaron’s legs are pretty short, so I had plenty of time to look closely at it as we passed by, and I realized that it was a dresser we had had in our apartment more than two years ago. A friend from Fuller had graduated and moved out of his apartment, and we had inherited his dresser. We used it until one day our landlord put two beautiful dressers out on the curb in front of our house, and we quickly claimed them. They were much nicer and significantly larger than the other and as soon as we moved them into our house, our old dresser from our Fuller friend took their place outside.

It was a strange feeling to walk by and see it sitting there: I recognized it by the scuffs and some paint marks that I remember were on it when we had it. Other than being drawer-less, it looked much the same as when it belonged to us. It was funny to realize that these neighbors had been using it all of this time and now they too were putting it out on the curb for someone else to claim (although, I’m not sure what good it would do anyone without drawers).

I was reminded of what I often tell myself and others: there is no shortage of ways that what you or I have is exactly what someone near to us needs. I have written here often enough about the times when I am brought face to face with a need that I would have thought myself incapable of meeting, only to find that the perfect provision was in my possession. This has been true of food and clothing, time and cash, cars and phones, not to mention words of truth from scripture, prayers, and simple presence with someone.

In the ghetto, you put what you don’t need out on the curb, and whoever does need it can come and get it. And like with our landlord and neighbor, there can be that great discovery of reciprocity and sufficiency within a community. I think that experience transcends used furniture, and we certainly have much room to grow in becoming a people that can truly say that “there are no needy among us”. I believe that for every lonely elderly person, there is one who could visit; for every single mom, there is a family who could support; for every troubled marriage, there is a couple who could listen and provide counsel; and for every person who is hungry, there is an extra place that could be set at someone’s table.

In my experience, it is rarely the needy who need to do a better job of asking: it is more often those with the “stuff” who need to do a better job of assessing what it truly is that they need, whether time or money or housing, and putting the rest out for whoever needs it.


  1. I appreciated the more metaphorical meaning of your post too :^), but I liked the straightforward prosaic stuff just as well.

    Maybe we need a more humane, Christian-simple-lifestyle ‘recycling’ ethic? Very relevant post, even in suburbia and exurbia.

    To me, the biggest obstacle for those on the receiving end is pride. Lots of comfortable, believing folks in the subexurbs would save a lot of money by using perfectly useful things that other people no longer need. That would free up money that could be invested in ministry and effective efforts by social entrepreneurs. But it is–admittedly–hard on the pride to take someone else’s “leftovers.”

    Middle class folks of another generation used garage sales to do the recycling task and saved people’s pride by charging a dollar for something worth 5X that amount. They’ve sort of gone out of style but I always thought they were cool. Recycling, sociability and savings for the consumer. Savings that could be reinvested in what’s worthwhile. Or in keeping middle class people’s heads above water in our increasingly unequal and unjust economic order.

    Maybe local online market sites like Craigslist are the new garage sales.

    Wonder if any young creative Christians have thought of a way to develop a kind of progressive, evangelical Craigslist where people could sell what they don’t need and donate the profits to ministry or to cutting edge social entrepreneurs.

    Might be the kind of thing a creative development director for a half crazy international ministry to the urban poor could pursue :^)

  2. Wonderful spiritual insight, sister.
    Thanks for posting this.
    mmm…still chewing on it…

  3. Thanks, Erika. Reminds me of some of what we’ve gone through where we live. We just recently pulled something in for our daughter that she now doesn’t want, so we’ll have to put it out. Hopefully someone can fix it and find good use for it.

  4. I just read in Wired Magazine how Elon Musk spent 100 million or personal space travel. Personal Space Travel??? Some might say that it is these wealthy entrepenuers who have fueled much of our ‘civilized’ advances.

    My question is this. When will we have an entrepenuer willing to spend 100 million to eradicate hunger? Or homelessness? Or …..” The reality that is so often avoided is that there is a sense (whether we actually believe it or are just complicit) that Mr. Musk was entitled to his 100 million dollar space project and we can be happy to reap whatever benefits will drip down to us eventually and those poor hungry folk are hungry because they are poor and thus less deserving of a meal.

    And then we all pat ourselves on the back because we all shared (hungry, poor, rich, fat) in the moment Armstrong stepped on the moon. What a great feat for all mankind. One difference: some watched it and then turned back to the meal while others continued passed the storefront window to the alley they were going to sleep in.

    Sure you could argue about the great national pride that came from it – the necessity of beating the Soviets to it – the stature it gave us…..

    I am still waiting to see what stature and national pride might be felt if we were to eradicate hunger. And what if we didn’t stop here but wiped it out everywhere? We all know we throw out more than enough food to feed the worlds hungry. (How will we ship it to them – the critic might say). The UN has said that the US and UK spend more money on dog food than would be required to satisfy all of the hunger relief projects it has.

    So how about this: feed you pet your scraps and give your money to the hungry. See, I even saved you the shipping cost of all that wasted food….

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