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The Hungry Man And The Garbage Can

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In October I travelled with my family to Quebec where our son was married. What a blessing to have four generations of the Schoepp family fly safely to celebrate this occasion. The leaves were in full colour, the meal was incredible, the wedding was lovely and the family time was a riot. All was as it should be.

Or was it? While we indulged in the incredible food and enjoyed the history and the nature of the region, I also observed something else that made me think hard about life and food.

As we fuelled up at a service station near old Quebec City I watched a young man walk down the street. He was a tall man who looked much like my son. He wore the same casual clothes my son would wear on a city walk. Perhaps his shoes were a little more worn, but other than that he looked like a typical middle-class 30-year old man. His stride seemed quick and sure. Probably, I mused, a man on his way home from work.

The man stopped at a garbage bin and rooted about for cans and bottles. That’s OK, I reflected, as plenty of folks pick for cans and bottles I remembered the story of an Alberta man who lost his wife and in his boredom and despair he picked for bottles. No one paid attention until after he had passed on and it was learned that the $92,000 he had raised from cans and bottles had all be given to charity. I did not think that I should be one to judge a young man for going through a garbage can for a cans or bottles.

Then, to my surprise, the man started eating anything he could find in that garbage. It was clear that he was desperately hungry. In respect of his dignity, I did not take a photograph but the image is burned in my mind. I also questioned how can it be that a Canadian has to dig in garbage for food when at the same time the fruit was rotting in the orchards? I have seen poverty in many countries, poverty that would shake you to your shoes. And, I have witnessed the need for food, especially with our homeless. (I am the type who buys a few extra coffees and muffins in the morning for those coming in off the streets to warm up before I go to a downtown meeting.) But this man, at the garbage can, was not living on the street, he was just hungry.

As I gathered my purse to assist, he vanished as quickly as he came. I was saddened by a missed opportunity to show love and compassion to someone who had less than me. I was also left wondering where it all went wrong. How embarrassed he must have felt the first time he dug into the garbage to eat. How demoralized he must feel as he walks home. Regardless, I did not think less of him, rather my heart reached out in a silent prayer that he would find the means to provide for himself.

In this land of plenty, there are those who have so much less. We need to meditate on this story. Just for today, look at the tossed food in your garbage and ask yourself how hungry you would have to be to eat it. Then count your blessings as you remember the story of the hungry man and the garbage can.

Brenda Schoepp is a market analyst and the owner and author of Beeflink, a national beef cattle market newsletter. A professional speaker and industry market and research consultant, she ranches near Rimbey, Alberta. Contact her at[email protected]

About the author

AF Columnist

Brenda Schoepp

Brenda Schoepp works as an international mentor and motivational speaker. She can be contacted through her website at All rights reserved.



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