I recently overheard one end of a phone conversation at Sears while waiting on my car. The woman was talking to somebody about somebody else and she referred to the “somebody else” as “common trash”. She then said, “He is such a Judas”. Whatever was going on, the woman was fired up and quite emotional. Hearing that term brought me back to my childhood.
Growing up, my momma frequently bounced around the term “Common Trash” as a putdown of folks whom she didn’t like or approve. At first, I didn’t have a clue what it meant and didn’t care; although, from momma’s tone I knew it wasn’t a compliment. For some reason, it seems like I had a vague feeling that to be called common trash had something to do with being poor and being a bad person. At some point, perhaps around age eleven or twelve, I began to sense a link between trash and hairstyle — particularly my brother Bill’s ducktails. Momma was always hassling him over them. His Elvis style hair made her skin crawl and the more she bitched the bigger and greaser the tails grew. During one of her frequent ducktail assults, she said he “looked like common trash”. I recall as she said that, she had an emotional quiver in her voice. I have never forgotten than night because it was about a 9.5 on the Richter scale. When Bill was later expelled from Father Ryan High, momma was afraid the people at church would think we were all common trash.
As our neighborhood began to change due to the “white flight” of the fifties, momma tagged several of our new neighbors with the common trash moniker. I could never figure out how she knew such a thing and here I was not at all even sure what common trash really was. Finally, with all the dysfunction and shame in our family, there came a point when I thought perhaps I was common trash too. That bothered me greatly. Somehow as I grew older, I figured out that I wasn’t; but for the life of me, I still didn’t have a clear understanding of the term until the day at Sears.
When I heard the woman talking on the phone it was like clicking the mouse in my brain. For the first time, I was able to get a handle on “common trash”. It has nothing to do with standard of living, where somone lives, how much money they make, or education or the car they drive. It absolutely, for sure hasn’t anything to do whatsoever with hair! “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.” Matthew 26:14-15 (NLT)
We can choose to do trashy things, just as Judas Iscariot surely did when he betrayed the best friend he would ever have. But the truth is, momma was wrong; there is no such thing as common trash. The Bible says that God made humans in His image. There is nothing common about God.
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