Doughnuts and Dumpster Diving

During odd-numbered summers, our family usually goes to Colorado to serve in our roles with Cru, the ministry with which my husband and I are on staff. We rent out our house, we drive cross country, and we live in an apartment for the summer. In our free time, we hike and visit yard sales and enjoy the refreshing change of pace (and scenery) for two months.

But since we want to sell our house this summer–and then buy a new-to-us house, too–we’ve decided to remain at home and keep doing our day jobs.

I’m reminiscing about our past summers in Colorado while I stay firmly planted east of the Mississippi this year, thinking of bike rides and farmer’s market trips and doughnuts–oh my, the doughnuts. So today I’m sharing one of my favorite Colorado stories. Stay tuned–doughnuts make an appearance.

bike shadows

Four summers ago in Colorado, I rallied my family to do something beautiful with the aluminum cans in the apartment complex where we were staying, one full of college students working summer jobs and taking summer classes. Each morning, dozens of cans were to be found all around the pool and deck area. Early, not long after the sun rose, I’d head out with a plastic grocery bag (or three) to pick up cans, shaking the beer and cigarette butts out of them before placing them in my bag. Usually the rest of my family would be asleep, but occasionally I’d take one of my boys with me. We recycled these cans by exchanging them for cash and made enough money over the summer to buy four bags of groceries to contribute to a local church’s food bank.

That had been my vision entering the summer…and it had been reached. In the boxes of cereal and cans of tuna, I saw the beauty of a goal fulfilled. But that was not the only beautiful part of this venture–over time, I got to know the men who worked maintenance at the apartment complex, and my husband and boys did, too. We would talk in the mornings as they cleared the pool of trash and I dug around in the garbage for aluminum cans.

I remember commenting to one of the men–his name is Mark–that the cigarette butts in the pool must be just the worst, right? He answered, “No, throw-up in the pool is the worst.” I had to agree. My little family and I developed a friendly rapport with these men, waving to them when we saw them at any of the other buildings on the grounds. At the end of the summer, my husband suggested we do another beautiful thing there in Colorado (well, he didn’t exactly say it that way) and treat those men to something special.

Likely, most residents at the apartment complex didn’t take much notice of these men who kept the washing machines in working order or tended to the sand in the volleyball court (or pulled patio furniture out of the hot tub after a wild night at the apartments). Or maybe they did, but I have a feeling that most of us (I’m speaking about myself here) just tend to see that kind of helper as blending into the background. But in our can-collecting efforts, we’d been able to strike up conversations with these men and enjoy their company.

So one morning, we picked up a dozen fresh doughnuts from the best doughnut shop in town, Lamar’s, and dropped it off at the apartment offices for these men–to say “thanks” for their hard work and for making it easy on our family to gather aluminum cans from among the trash. Those men were part of our cans-into-food project that summer, too–they never let on that we got in their way when we were digging for cans, and they even pulled some cans out of the trash and put them aside for us on a few mornings. Without their support, we could never have participated in the (very literal) redemption of those cans being transformed into food. And I came to realize something that summer: ¬†Giving is even more beautiful when others can get in on the act of giving with you.


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