Friday, July 16, 2021

Andy Young: Attempting to nourish my soul

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

It’s time to publicly try out that old axiom about confession being good for the soul. 

Several years ago I played softball on Sunday mornings for a team that wore maroon and white uniforms. Our sponsor was a company that made kitchen cabinets; its name was on the front of our numbered jerseys.

All right. Half a confession is no better than no confession at all. This all happened several decades ago.

Anyway, we were a decent team that generally advanced to the post-season, and every so often we’d even win a couple of playoff contests. But that’s not what needs divulging here.

After our games were over, someone would fetch an ice-filled cooler from the trunk of his car, and we’d all enjoy an adult beverage or two together. We’d laugh, talk current events (okay; current sports events), and do the sorts of things young weekend warriors did back then (and I presume now): rehash the game we’d just played, tell embellished stories, and repeat (with fresh exaggerations) tales we’d told previously that teammates had enjoyed.

We also rolled our collective eyes when a disheveled old man came by to pick up the empty bottles and cans at the park where we’d just played. There were five or six different softball diamonds in town, but no matter which one we had played on, if we lingered long enough we’d see that same reliable, pitiful old man picking through the trash.  

Mostly we just pretended he wasn’t there. But every once in a while, some wise guy would speculate about which park bench he had slept under the night before, or how many containers he’d need to pick up and cash in in order to purchase a bottle of Ripple, Mad Dog 20-20, or whatever cheap rotgut was on sale at the local liquor store that night. Of course, no one was rude enough to make any such comments out loud, but we all thought those things, or at least I did.

That’s confession number one. Now here’s number two.

I’ve become that man.

Yes, it’s true; I’m now that guy who goes around town picking up empties at baseball fields, soccer fields, and on roadsides near high schools on mornings following Friday night home football games. Not only that, I too have reached into trash cans, though preferably no further than wrist-deep, in order to recover a clean-looking bottle or can. And when I’ve collected enough containers that once contained potable liquids, I cash them in. Just like, I presume, that older gentleman did lo those many years ago in a town located about 250 miles south of where I live today. I subsequently take the money I receive for what I’ve picked up, double it, and contribute it to the local food bank.

And now here’s confession number three: the people who already know what I’ve been doing probably think I’m a kind, selfless person who cares deeply about both the environment and the less fortunate. The truth: I’m neither of those things. What I really am is a selfish, guilt-ridden human being who’s trying desperately to stockpile enough good karma to atone for all the rotten things he’s done in the past, like harshly judge an old guy who went around picking up bottles and cans late on Sunday mornings many years ago.

You know what? Those old adages make sense, or at least the one about confessing does. Now that my soul’s been cleansed, maybe I’ll try keeping my chin up, wearing a shoe that fits, or reading a book without judging it by its cover! <

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