A couple of Sundays ago I was busy setting things up for our afternoon service. A community member (I’ll call him Tom) showed up to help and chat.

Tom is one of my younger folks, someone who many might refer to as more of a “street kid”. He has a mop of dark hair, likes to wear baggy clothes and walks with his head down. Tom’s reality is one where couch surfing, eating at drop-in centres and hustling for money is the norm. He also regularly makes me laugh out-loud.

On this day Tom was telling me about having spoken to a family member for the first time in 3-ish years. He decided to call because it was Christmas. Since connecting he has been contemplating the truth that if this person dies, he will no longer have any blood relatives. He repeatedly said, “Erinn I’m gonna be totally alone”.

I found myself listening to much of Tom’s story while standing by the counter in the small kitchen. I heard about his childhood, his desire to fit in, his struggle with substances. Absent-mindedly I poured some milk into a container and tossed the drained carton into a recycling bin.

Tom stopped mid sentence and said, “Erinn! You aren’t recycling properly. Look, let me show you…”. Tom retrieved the carton, rinsed it out, flattened it and gently placed it back in the bin. He told me that recycling is one of the few things he can do to make sure the world is a little better. I immediately felt his chastisement and learned my lesson. Though I think he thought it weird, I was moved by the experience. There was something beautiful about the care he took with the one thing he has control of.

My heart is large for Tom. In some ways he feels like my kid, and if I’m not mistaken he feels like it too. His real life stories often make me wince and wish it could all be different. I tell him frequently that he is not alone and I hope against hope that he believes it.

I also tell him that I every time I recycle I now think of him.

fred-half-pint-milk-jug2-500x500