I am not an avid environmentalist, but I do like to do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint.
One way we do this is by recycling. Many of you live in places where recycling is mandated, but in Cumberland County, Tennessee it is completely voluntary. Voluntary meaning you sort, you store, you deliver to one of the collection stations. Regular trash pick up only includes recyclable items if you intend them for the land fill.
We made a little experiment out of it several years ago and realized by recycling, we reduce our waste by 2/3. In other words, we filled our taxpayer-funded-city-provided trash can three times per week, but by recycling we only filled it once.
That was a pretty big difference, so we kept it up ever since.
Recycling in this way has other benefits, too. Unexpected ones.
One of our kids is a recycling pro – he does our sorting every morning and is acutely aware of which things can be recycled. He has become an expert in materials. That’s a pretty awesome benefit. Kids like to be the expert.
Another side benefit is getting to go to the dump itself. Now, you wouldn’t think a 16-minute round trip to the dump would be that exciting, but when it comes as an invitation to spend time with Daddy, everything changes.
Like many homes, time with Daddy is at a premium. Being invited on a trip to the dump with Daddy is a treasured date. Our youngest kids especially enjoy this time and even fight over getting to go to the dump. Go figure.
On one hand, it’s not a big deal. They buckle into their seat belts, ride for eight minutes, sit and watch Daddy unload, dump, and reload the bins, and ride eight minutes back home. Done.
On the other hand, it is a big deal. It occurred to me recently how much my kids value one-on-one time with a parent, even if it’s a 16-minute trip to the dump or a 22-minute trip to the post office or a 35-minute trip for allergy shots.
A short trip to run an errand may include conversation about anything from the cars on the road with us to caring for an elderly neighbor. They might talk about their dreams for the future or the crazy dream they had last night about flying attack hamburgers over the Sahara.
So often my objective is to get something done, while my kids’ objective is to do something together.
Maybe the most important thing I accomplish in my day is inviting my children along.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. — Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Inviting a child to the dump is an opportunity for my husband to diligently teach my children about loving God.
Inviting a child to shop, to allergy shots, to the post office are all opportunities to impress upon them what it looks like to love God with all our errands.
Talking about the traffic counts, especially when we train thankfulness for being stuck in traffic rather than stuck in the overturned car causing the traffic. Talking about the weather counts. So do all the conversations about Cookie Monster, new dresses, fresh scrapes, and Lego Robotics.
The point is to invite my children to sit, walk, and lie down with me as I love God like crazy. After all, they only do what they see at home.