From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith


The generous who is always just, and the just who is always generous,
may, unannounced, approach the throne of heaven.

~John Casper Lavater

Since I had a truck with a trailer hitch, I was the one volunteered to haul the aluminum can trailer to the recycling center after our Bible study on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t that big a chore; it took a couple of hours at the most, and sometimes one of the guys from the group rode along with me.

After a couple of trips, the procedure became routine. I would drive up to the scale, weigh my load, back up to the pit and help shovel the aluminum cans out. The attendant would make a few notations, hand me a slip of paper, I’d go back to get weighed again, then take the slip to the cashier. The total was tabulated, the deductions taken and they’d write me a check. Simple enough.

After a few times though, I started having a little problem with their notations and deductions. It was completely guesswork by the attendant, and I had no recourse as he deducted for non-can waste, non-aluminum cans and, of course, my favorite: water content. If it had been raining and the cans were wet, this was usually the largest deduction. The recycling center seemed to think that empty cans could just absorb water, substantially adding to the total weight and our deductions. I had a hard time believing this, but I tolerated it because any money received was a gift to our church fund and graciously accepted. I trusted the Lord could handle any injustice on their part.

One Saturday morning, it was raining and cold—what many would call a raw day. I wanted to wait for another Saturday to haul the cans, knowing how the deduction system would work against us, but the trailer was full. As I suspected, there were no volunteers to ride along this dreary day, so I hooked up and headed down to the center, doing my duty for church and God.

Everything was pretty much normal when I got there. This early Saturday morning, with the cold wind and rain, was especially slow. When I backed up to the pit, the usual attendants were not to be found. After a minute or so I went ahead and started to unload the cans myself, as I had many times before.

About this time a rather large fellow with a cigar and an attitude came around the corner. “What’s going on here?” he barked.

I could tell by his white shirt and nametag that he was the supervisor. Poor weather and Saturday morning had combined to deter his help from coming in, so he had to man the station himself, he said. He made it quite clear that he was not happy to be there and seemed determined to make sure I was not happy either. I quickly determined I should simply stay out of the way and make a quick departure.

After we finished unloading, he whipped out the check sheet and started making deductions. He didn’t miss a one. It seemed he could find little good with our load of cans as he continued his checkoff. I regretted making a run this day, but it was too late to turn back. When he got to the water deduction, he was especially critical and the deduction cost us dearly. When he finished, he turned to me and asked the name of our organization so he could list it on the sheet.

“Corpus Christi Catholic Church,” I said.

He stopped in his tracks. He looked up from his sheet and asked, “What church?”

“Corpus Christi.”

He pulled the cigar from his mouth and asked in a gentler tone, “Is that the one by the mountain?”

I replied that it was, a bit surprised that he would know it because it was far from there and few outside of its locale would know much about it.

Standing in the cold wind, he began to tell his story. “When I was in jail, my family needed some help making ends meet. My wife checked with a bunch of organizations for help paying the rent and buying some food for my family. All of ‘em turned her down—except you. Yours was the only place that’d help us.” I could see tears in his eyes.

His voice choked, “Thank you.” At that he reached over and pulled me to him in a bear hug. I’m no small man, but I felt like a child in his embrace. If he could have seen my face as he squeezed the air out of my lungs with his huge arms and his big heart, he would have seen the tears there for him. After a solid slap on the back, he finally released me. I stepped back, breathless, unable to speak. But that was not a problem for him.

He tore the worksheet out of his book and tossed it away. “Let’s see here,” he said as he filled out a new one, quickly going down the list, checking no deductions. Scrawling Corpus Christi in big letters, he signed it and handed it to me with a big smile and another “Thank you.”

After weighing the trailer on the scale again, I took the sheet up to the main desk. The cashier looked at it a little suspiciously but didn’t say anything, noting the supervisor himself had signed it.

I drove away feeling warm and happy, knowing our recycling fund had grown a good bit larger that day—more money to help families in need.

~Richard Duello

Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2

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