The first time I met Lin, I wondered what an elderly Oriental woman was doing in our alley at 6 in the morning. She felt as though she owed me an explanation, so without my asking, she asked if i would mind if she collected the metal cans from our alley containers. I told her that as long as it didn't mess up the alley, it was OK with me. Over the years, Lin has come to our alley hundreds of times. Almost every day. Very early in the morning, and always very quiet and considerate. She lays the container down on its side, and then, on her hands and knees pulls out the aluminum cans, quietly. She even straightens out the row of containers when she is done. There are other scrap collectors who come and go in the neighborhood. They are usually noisy, dirty, and leave a mess when they're done going through the containers. We used to have a man in his early twenties who pulled a coaster wagon behind him with a boom box blasting away at Hispanic rap music, as if the clanking and rooting weren't enough noise for us.
Lin is always very meticulous about keeping the area neat. She usually wears rubber gloves to protect herself. In the winter she is bundled up in a brilliant yellow snowsuit. We've had an ongoing conversation over the years. Lin always knows how the scrap prices are doing. If she sees me in the alley, she always waves, and sometimes comes over to talk awhile. One day she told me she collected scrap because it was good for her blood sugar, and she loves getting exercise and being outdoors. She has grandchildren who are in grade school.
I feel good about having Lin as a part of my neighborhood. I save the cans out separately, and do what I can to time it out so that the scrap is going to be there when she arrives. Since she's usually the first one there early in the morning, that's not too difficult. And I tell the neighbors about her -so they don't chase her off. I let them know how conscientious and regular she is. I'm sure if Lin saw something amiss in our alley, a breakin, or someone hurt, for example, she would get help. Because she cares about the neighborhood she serves. And we care about Lin.
Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to twitter.com I'm @dimbulb52
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