Listen: Landfill Harmonic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXynrsrTKbI
Landfill Harmonic: "My Way" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--dJf81pKCo
Looking over saved inspirational messages from the past few years, I came across this piece about a slum built on a landfill in Cateura, Paraguay, outside the capital, Asuncion. It is one of the poorest places in the country. 1,500 tons of waste are dumped there daily. The people of Cateura are garbage sorters. 2,500 families eke out a living by sifting through the trash, separating out what is recyclable or resellable. Children play a main role in sorting and selling the trash.
One day, a garbage picker found something that resembled a violin and showed it to musician Favio Chavez. The pair began to construct other objects from the dump, and made a operational violin. A violin is worth more than a house in Cateura. The search was on. Other items were found, and soon a cello, a flute and a drum were made. The amazing thought occurred to them: could a children's orchestra be forged in this most desperate of places? Starting with a few children, Chavez began to teach them music. Over the years it has grown to an orchestra of 35, children of all ages, some with very little musical talent; but with the desire to participate. Chavez continues to teach music to the children of the "garbage dump," and the music of the orchestra has reached the ears of the outside world. It is a message of how in desperate circumstances miracles can happen. The miracle for Cateura is found not only in the beauty of the music, but in the awareness and activism that has resulted to address the abject poverty in which the children grow up.
The story of the "Landfill Harmonic" reminds us that what and who we might look upon as meaningless, useless or expendable, God sees as precious and instruments of grace. Our biggest landfills (think of Freshkills on Staten Island) are minuscule compared to the our spiritual and social landfills. We throw away love. We waste opportunities. We abandon hope, prayer and service to the dump heap, when we see little immediate value. Everyday we do this, like we throw away a paper coffee cup. Think of the story of how God chose David (1 Samuel 16). Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king among Jesse's sons. The first seven of Jesse's sons went before Samuel; each one Samuel thought was to be God's anointed. Samuel asked Jesse if there were any more. There was David, the youngest, unconsidered, in fact he was left behind to tend the sheep. David, the one ignored by the elders, was chosen by David, and grew to be the greatest King of Israel. What would have happened if Samuel had not listened closely to the Lord? How different would have been the course of Israel's history.
Let us be spiritually attentive to the landfills we create in our hearts -- memories, judgments, opportunities, intuitive nudges we ignore -- and perhaps we will find something significant and precious we have overlooked.
Think twice before throwing away an opportunity to love, to care, to help.
Pray: "O God, we have buried and thrown away so much in our lifetime. Help us be mindful, help us lovingly restore to glory what we have needlessly discarded."