I was awakened by the noise.
Living in a new flat, it is just a given that a cacophony would welcome us to the neighborhood.
It was a warm California evening. The bedroom window was open in order to enjoy the ebb and flow of the coastal breeze.
The noise was not necessarily a startling one.
And yet, somehow I was not only awakened by it, I was curious as to its origin.
I poked my head through the blinds and peered out.
Our bedroom vantage point has the unfortunate access to a direct view of the dumpsters. And the building next to us has an outdoor sensor light which comically casts a bright stream of light directly onto cement.
This light also creates shadows, and it was because of the shadows created that I was able to observe two figures.
These two figures and their shadows were remarkably stealth. They themselves did not make a sound, but the actions they performed did, and were what in fact, awakened me.
These two figures were rifling through the dumpsters. They seemed to have an unspoken system set in place with each figure diligently working from opposite ends. Not only did they have huge bags in hand, they also had equally huge bags secured somehow to their backs.
I watched them until they faded away into the darkness.
And although I have now become used to the sound, I have watched them more than once.
I think about them often – these shadowy figures rifling through dumpsters in the dark.
It does not sit well with me.
Not at all.
Not even remotely.
I wonder about their life story.
I wonder what it would be like to talk with them, to invite them to our table.
I am not so naive as to not know that there are other shadowy figures visiting other dumpsters in other neighborhoods.
I don’t have any answers.
A couple of years ago, during an especially harsh Oregon winter, my daughter and I assembled brown paper bags filled with items that we hoped would help stave off the cold, fill bellies, and provide opportunities for warmth and community. We kept these bags in the back of our car, and passed them out as we felt led to do so.
It is not enough. Not even close. But it was something.
I think we will do that again this summer.
And I will pray for those figures in the shadows.