I believe in the power of recycling because recycling and reinvention go hand in hand. Where does that water bottle go after it’s tossed into the big, green bin of reincarnation? It could be made into a different bottle living a different life in a different place; the comb in a hygiene packet given to the less fortunate at a shelter; possibly it’s now part of the park bench at which a couple will spend every anniversary for the rest of their time together.
I could always see the potential in the flattened and filthy bottles and newspapers on the highway. I would think “If they could just make it to a recycling bin.” I believe new life can come from anywhere, even from the abundance of seemingly useless garbage. I believe the same is true for humankind, those who have been discarded, those who just need a second chance. I believe that the underlying potential in every person is waiting to show through; that no matter how poor, oppressed or underprivileged a person might be they can still be “recycled.
” I come from a family that always seems to be at a disadvantage. A family with no general education, no money, no help, yet still a plethora of addictions, jail time, and bad decisions. Generation after generation living day by day from check to check struggling to make ends meet; hitting more than our fair share of ‘rock bottoms.’ But I know that my family, the accumulation of newspapers and dirty napkins, the plastic, glass and aluminum mistakenly thrown in the garbage to be hauled to a landfill and all other trash that is assumed to have no hope can be recycled and turned into something greater, it can all be shown its true potential.
I remember sitting in a small room on one of the two wooden bunk-beds that my mother, five siblings (at the time) and I would call home for the next six months. I remember 10-year-old me taking my mom’s hand and consoling her as she asked herself: “What next?” I remember looking into her beautiful and busted eyes with tears pouring out of them and telling her that everything would be okay and that I would always be there to help her. Even as she smiled back at me and wiped away her tears, I could still see the trauma, the exhaustion, the insecurity on her face. Although I didn’t quite understand it then, we had just found ourselves at the beginning of our rebirth, in the recycling bin awaiting our repurposing. My mother had finally started to escape the abusive marriage she had been trapped in for nine years. She was left alone and terrified with six young children trying to find a way fix it all.
When we arrived at First Step, a safe home for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence, my young mind not only saw the two-story, brick house with a playground out back, I saw an ending and a beginning. This building meant that we were done and that we got to start over. This building was our recycling bin. It would be a long, redundant cycle, tiresome and stressful yet reassuring.
Now, ten years later, I have been given the chance to send my entire heritage and posterity to the recycling plant. I have been given the chance to end the generations of thieves, scroungers and borrowers, to make the perpetual struggle come to its long awaited end. By going to college against the odds, I am giving my family hope and allowing them to see what life can truly hold. I came to the realization that we don’t have to spend our lives blowing around in the wind waiting to decompose, that I could become something greater and, in doing so, I could transform my family, those around me, those I love into something greater. I came to the realization that I have the potential to slowly change the world one bottle at a time.
I believe that no matter where you come from, your path could take you anywhere. I believe that a person’s past is not a determining factor in their latent future. If old newspapers can become the sheetrock and countertops in million dollar mansions and torn boxes can be the very shingles atop them, if old cans can become part of the luxury cars in the driveway of that mansion then I, you, he, she, we all can become something greater.