It was a typical Sunday afternoon. I was tying up the last bag of garbage to put in the alley dumpster before pick-up Monday morning. Unlocking the alley gate sent the dogs into their usual frenzy — you see, being Jack Russell’s they own every piece of real-estate within the immediate 20 miles of where they live. The alley was of particular interest because, when opened, the dumpster lid can be seen over the fence … hence, the frenetic effort to claim that as their own once again.
As usual gardener services had driven up the alley and dumped all sorts of debris everywhere. Though illegal, there aren’t cameras to catch them so it’s cheaper to disobey dumping laws than pay to go to the dump. Approaching the bin I noticed a small concrete shoulders and head peeking out of some branches. I got rid of the bags and looked down. It was clearly that of a saint.
Being an Episcopalian, which many describe as Catholic Light, we don’t often display statues of saints or other deity round and about — and it's a bit overt for me particularly. However, it struck me as I turned and walked back to the gate that leaving a saint in the garbage was somehow just wrong.
I did the dishes, thought about the saint. I vacuumed, thought about the saint. So, I had to go back in the alley to check it out. “If it’s broken I will leave it,” I mumbled. Well, as I uncovered the statue it became clear that it was St. Francis of Assisi and he was in perfect condition.
I knew a bit about this saint. He lived a life of luxury until he was imprisoned during a war and held for ransom. During his year imprisonment he had visions from God and when he was released he gave up his former life to become a devotee of Christianity. The rest of his life he developed a great love for nature and animals which is why he is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment.
I'm not philosophical enough to contemplate the matter of coincidence or not, however, after spending a decade working at a conservation zoo and a lifetime of loving animals I couldn’t leave this saint in the garbage. He now has a place in the yard, and has been integrated into our daily routine. He stands among the flowers and is often adorned with hats or flags or lights or whatever is appropriate for the season. The dogs no longer bark at him, and Dash runs out to make certain he’s still there each and every morning.
Clearly, you never know when you might find a saint in need. It could be at the dumpster in the alley.