A few years ago my wife, Melanie, was on her way home when a car, traveling in the opposite direction, crossed the center line and struck her car head on. Fortunately, Melanie's injuries were not serious, but her car was totaled.
Before the car was disposed of, I traveled to the lot where it had been towed so that I could clean it out. Melanie is a teacher so she always carries a car full of "stuff" for her classes and her children. Her front and back seats are full of treasurers that, until that time, I had called "trash". Whenever I rode in the car with her she had to clean out a space for me. Waiting for her to do this was aggravating and she would never let me do it. God forbid that I rearrange her papers that were strewn about in what appeared to be a random fashion. This caused some arguments about the virtues of a clean car, which I never won.
I arrived at the lot where a number of other wrecked cars sat looking like some scene from a movie about the end of the world. And in the middle of them sat Melanie's car; crumpled and broken and dented. And the full impact of her accident began to creep upon me. It dawned on me that she was alive by the smallest of margins; a few inches, a half a second, the blink of an eye.
I looked into the interior of her car. Her "stuff" was scattered about. I pried the door open and sat down on front the passenger seat. I began to load her "stuff" into a bag. I looked at each paper, each pencil, each item connected to her, and suddenly her "stuff" was no longer "trash" but had been transformed into treasure. And I handled each book, each clipping, each rubber band and piece of cloth as if it were made of gold.
I still tease her about her untidy car. But I now know, after she has cleaned a spot for me to sit, how lucky I am to be sitting with her among her "trash".
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