There was this guy, and he cared about the environment. He never threw mostly-empty paint cans in the trash when he was finished with a painting project. “Paint is bad for the environment,” he said. “It goes in the landfill, it ends up in the groundwater.”
So he put his old paint cans in the shed to await the day when he could carry them to the paint disposal place across town.

All his friends said, “Listen—all you’ve got to do is to throw your old paint cans in the trash, put some garbage on top. The trash men will carry them right off. They’ll never know the difference.”

The guy said, “You like drinking paint, do you?”

“Pardon?” his friends said.

“You like drinking paint? That’s what you’ll be doing if everybody throws their paint cans in the trash. It gets in the groundwater, you know.” His friends went away chastened.

The years went by, and the guy repainted rooms, touched up the shutters, re-did the trim. The paint cans piled in his shed—a dozen, two dozen and more.

“You’re crazy,” his friends said. “Just throw these paint cans in the trash—a few this week, a few next week, a few the week after that. They’ll be gone in no time.”

“I’m not a polluter,” the guy said.

“Then take them to the paint disposal place,” his friends said. “Who wants old paint cans taking over his shed?”

“I’m going to take them to the paint disposal place,” the guy said, with a firmness that quailed his friends and cheered his heart.

More years passed. The pile of old paint cans grew ever higher, so great was the guy’s conviction.

In the fullness of time, the guy sold his house. Moving day approached, and he thought of the mountain of old paint cans in his shed.

“I am not a polluter,” the guy said. “In all these long years, I have never thrown a paint can in the garbage. Not one!” His voice trembled with more conviction than ever. “I am a busy man, and a good one. I am moving, for crying out loud! And the paint disposal place is many miles away.”

So under the cover of darkness he loaded all the paint cans in a borrowed truck and placed them—quietly, quietly—in the nearest construction dumpster.

  • Amy
    2:40 PM, 24 January 2011

    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. ~Mark Twain

  • Drew
    3:14 PM, 24 January 2011

    Thumbs-up for starting with “There was this guy . . .”

  • Aaron Roughton
    3:35 PM, 24 January 2011

    Love this fable.

  • Patrick
    3:39 PM, 24 January 2011

    What a sad story.

  • Sarah B C
    3:44 PM, 24 January 2011

    And that’s how people wind up on “Hoarders”

  • Jess
    4:08 PM, 24 January 2011

    I can’t comment on this because I am too busy coughing lead paint and moldy chemicals out of my innards. *wheeze*

  • Charee
    5:38 PM, 24 January 2011

    Poor guy. He didn’t see other choices in his black and white world. Often we see the world this way and don’t see beyond choice A or B. Waiting or asking to find choice C is overlooked.
    Latex paint can be disposed in the trash properly IF it is dried out completely first. In the last move the hazardous substance disposal facility wouldn’t take it and gave me instructions.

  • Patrick
    7:10 PM, 24 January 2011

    Can you imagine if he finally did haul those cans to the disposal place- and there he was given the instructions Charee has shared with us? I believe he would feel highly embarrassed to have stored those cans for so long- he was likely already feeling embarrassed anticipating the reaction if he ever did show up at the disposal with a truck-load of mostly empty cans. But I believe the guilt and shame he would feel from his secret nighttime act of betraying his own conscience would have a greater negative effect on him than any amount of embarrassment.
    I’m glad this is just a fable, and not any real person that any of us might know 😉

  • sally apokedak
    2:15 PM, 25 January 2011

    So, what’s the moral? It’s easy to judge your neighbor as long as you have a large shed, in which to store you paint cans? Don’t judge your neighbor until you’ve painted a while in his shed-less house? Take care of stuff as you go along, instead of waiting so long that you are forced to compromise?

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:52 PM, 25 January 2011

      The moral?! Sally, you may be kicked off my blog if you go asking for morals (or writing haikus).
      I will say this, however: I wrote this fable after hearing about a friend of a friend who, after decades of very vocally criticizing anyone and everyone who got a divorce, went and got one himself. So there was only one blot on his lengthy and impressive anti-divorce record, but it was a doozie.

  • Canaan Bound
    2:45 AM, 26 January 2011

    Aaron Roughton, I think you mean, “Love this fable…but I love my alternate ending more.”

  • Canaan Bound
    3:31 AM, 26 January 2011

    The day that we all determined Aaron Roughton to be the best post commentator ever.

  • sally apokedak
    2:38 PM, 26 January 2011

    I thought it was a little odd that you were writing a fable because I thought fables were written for the purpose of teaching a moral lesson.
    In regards to the guy who got the divorce: I can sympathize. Just about every time I publicly criticize someone I end up going out and falling into the same sin. God doesn’t let me get away with thinking I’m better than others, though I’d really, really, really like to believe that. It’s one thing to say divorce is sinful and it’s another to look at your divorced neighbor and think that you could have done better in his situation.

    But enough of this. I’ll sum up this way:

    Fable in morning
    righteous people hear and heed
    heathens cannot see

  • Aaron Roughton
    9:30 PM, 26 January 2011

    Actually, I meant that I love this fable, but I love the alternate ending I wrote to Russ Ramsey’s Easter Meditation even more.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    9:43 PM, 26 January 2011

    Sally, there are three things I won’t tolerate on this blog: cussing, bullyragging, and haikus.

  • sally apokedak
    12:23 AM, 27 January 2011

    I must confess that I am not a big fan of haiku myself.
    Cussing and bullyragging…now those are different matters altogether.

    Sincere apologies for the haiku and for trying to attach a moral to your paint pail tale. I’ll be on my best behavior from here out.

  • Canaan Bound
    3:43 AM, 27 January 2011

    Somehow it always comes back ’round to Russ Ramsey…

  • Aaron Roughton
    9:10 PM, 27 January 2011

    You read this or elseI flipping love good haiku
    If you don’t you stink

  • sally apokedak
    10:41 PM, 27 January 2011

    ha ha ha
    You call that cussing?

    Canaan Bound, thanks for the link. That’s a funny thread.

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