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The Fine Art of Dumpster Diving

How open and curious are you when presented with an idea that seems contrary to your beliefs and values?

Are you leaning in, eager to hear more about this alternate perspective – or is your internal dialogue busy defending what you “know” and judging what you’re hearing.

The Urge to Close

A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to spend a day on a ski hill with a pretty cool 21 year old guy I was meeting for the first time. He was training me in some ski patrol work, so we spent the day together skiing runs, learning protocol and getting to know the hill. I was increasingly impressed with his maturity, calm manner and kindness, and had gained a lot of respect for him by mid-day.

As we sat having a brown bag lunch together at the top of the hill, he offered up that he hadn’t paid for groceries in over 3 months. When I asked how he had managed that, he replied, “Dumpster diving.”

That’s the moment, right there, when “what you know” steps in with a forceful, insistent opinion. The next words out of my mouth were something like, “Dude! Shut the front door! You can’t be serious…”

The Choice to Open

My initial response held a combination of aversion and fascination. A loud voice was saying, “Everything I know about this is wrong.” And then it occurred to me I really knew very little about it at all, and this was an opportunity to become more enlightened.

It took determined effort to relinquish judgement and really hear what he had to say, but he made a solid case for the overwhelming waste of food that exists in our society. His bins of choice are outside grocery stores that throw out enormous amounts of perfectly good food every single day. His opinion is that it simply doesn’t make sense to spend money on food while free food is sitting there for the taking, and he shared that the idea of doing so while people are starving in the world feels very wrong to him. In his mind spending his money to help those in need is a better use of it. (For the record, he is also on a mission to figure out a way to overcome obstacles to diverting that food into food banks.)

While I have no intention of changing my grocery shopping habits in the near future, and while his motives may be somewhat mixed, in the end I have to say that his rational for dumpster diving makes at least as much sense as my rational against it. (Unhygienic and just kinda ick). More importantly, in choosing to honor open-hearted curiosity instead of personal opinion, I saw a side of things I had not considered before, and that was an expansive experience.

While years of living fill us with volumes of knowledge and wisdom, I’ve found there is a lot of value in keeping a book of blank pages on the top of the pile, ready to be filled with what we don’t yet know.

Good to ponder:

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

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