I heard from a friend that Howard County has expanded its compost program, and not only has her neighborhood been included, but she is part of the program. That was the first time I heard about composting in Howard County, or anywhere else, and so I asked for some education.
Later, as I drove through my Owen Brown neighborhood, I noticed some green compost bins. I have seen them before but didn’t give much thought to them. According to the Howard County government, about 30% of all the waste we send to landfills could be composted and then transformed into a viable product. And so my friend - who now has a green compost bin - deposits waste in that bin, which is collected every week. Something good comes out of the waste from the compost bin.
What I found interesting was the conscious effort to turn the compost into something viable. In other words, turning the waste into something good, something that could serve a different and valuable purpose. Something good coming out of our organic material waste.
Composting is different from recycling, it turns out. As important as recycling may be, its end product is the same - when you recycle paper or plastic, you get paper or plastic. Although both processes turn waste into something of substance, the main difference is that composting breaks organic materials down into the soil, thus enriching the soil so it can produce abundantly.
We are now a few days into 2024 - the New Year. Heaven bears witness that we just started and we have a long way to go. But we do still have the opportunity to check our compost. We know that we cannot recycle some of the things that we used to do because it will yield just about the same results. But if we are to consider ourselves as compost, which enriches the soil, you and I can only imagine how bountiful the harvest could be.
The reality is that there is a Jacob and an Israel in each of us. The question is, which one do we prefer? The Jacob of recycling or the Israel of compost?
Jacob was the twin brother of Esau. He didn’t particularly like the idea of being the younger of the two and that Esau, his older twin brother, would - as tradition demanded - inherit his father, Isaac. Jacob always found a way to cheat his brother. He schemed to take Esau’s birthright. He connived with his mother, Rebecca, to steal the blessings of Esau. He succeeded. But he had to leave his father and mother to live with his uncle, Laban.
Years later, on his journey to return to his father’s ancestral home with his twelve sons and daughter, Dinah, and his wives, he struggled throughout the night with a strange man the night before he met his brother, Esau. At dawn, Jacob held on to the man who begged Jacob to let him go. Jacob demanded that the man bless him before he would let him go. The man blessed him and changed his name to Israel. From that time, Jacob did no one any wrong until his passing.
Jacob - which means the one who follows - was changed to Israel, meaning one who struggles with God. Now, you know there’s a little Jacob in each of us and also a little Israel in each of us. The Jacob in us is like recycling - it churns out the same material. The Israel in us is like compost - it nourishes and transforms.
To understand that there’s a little bit of Jacob and Israel in each of us is to understand that each of us holds within ourselves some element of darkness that leads us on perilous paths. In that same vein, we also hold within us an element of Israel that struggles with God, and our Jacobs. Our Israel overcomes our Jacobs - just so we can be transformed to live a life of utmost honor to God.
The point of composting is that nothing is ever thrown away, considered unworthy, or useless. Composting is akin to our relationship with God; there’s never a time when God considers us or our gifts as useless, unworthy, or too small. Despite the Jacob that is in us, God sees the Israel within, as well, and looks to transform that Jacob in us with a new name.
As we begin another year, I invite you to take a long and deep look at yourself. Let’s not consider the possibility of recycling our waste, because we cannot recycle deceit, anger, malice, selfishness, pride, hatred, or any of such and produce anything different.
Let’s instead consider the possibility of composting. Let’s think about the waste in our lives that can be turned into something useful, something good, something transformative, something that yields abundant harvest.
This New Year, let’s not carry our waste with us. Let’s leave them in the compost bin - for some good would surely come out of it.
I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year!