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Blue Box Scavenger

No - this is NOT a savings plan!
No - this is NOT a savings plan!

It was six o’clock in the morning on recycling day. I was taking Sam out for her morning constitutional. Halfway down the block, a grey-bearded man stood holding several large bags, looking into a blue box. He began to fiddle with his pants and I thought, “Oh God, he’s not going to urinate right here, is he?” (Or worse.)

My dog was off-leash. I didn’t want her running up to him; I admit, I was a little scared of what he’d do next and I didn’t want to get any closer. I turned, calling Samantha to come with me.

I took about three steps then thought, “What am I doing? I can’t do this. I can’t be scared of this man. I can’t let myself be scared of him. Why should I be?”

De-cluttering waiting to happen

I turned around, and he was slowly walking in my direction. “Are you collecting stuff for the liquor store?” I asked, trying not to startle him or sound judgmental or accusatory. He said yes, so I said, “Great! My car died, and I have a ton of stuff that needs to go. Would you like to take it?”

As we approached my house, I admit I was worried that he would know where I lived. I fought off that fear too, rationalizing that he wasn’t a thief; he was collecting bottles for money.

I left him to wait in my driveway as I ran upstairs. I was so happy to get the wine and beer bottles that I’d been saving out of my house. The clutter had been driving me crazy. (For those of us with ADHD, de-cluttering is always waiting to happen.) Besides, I’d much rather he had the money than me. I thanked him for helping me out and off he went.

The marginalized marginalizing

This encounter made me wonder: why had I been afraid? That’s not normally like me. Ok, the fiddling with the pants thing was a bit weird, but still…nothing happened. I’ve been working so hard to diffuse the stigma around having ADHD (or any mental health issue, for that matter), why would I perpetuate the marginalization of another?

I want to break barriers down, not maintain them.

We make so many assumptions about the poor, about those with a mental health issue, about anyone who’s struggling. I’ve been guilty of it myself, and recently learned a good lesson.

Lesson learned. Stereotypes shattered. Amen.

I’d been visiting at a low-rent housing development. I’d expected the air to be thick with the sounds of domestic violence; that garbage would litter the lawns; that there’d be massive amounts of dog poop left behind by the legions of dog owners. None of this was true. NONE of it. I’ve seen more litter, more dog poop, and heard more verbal abuse on my lushly-treed residential street of Victorian, single-family homes and house apartments, in a good neighborhood, than I ever saw at the low-rent apartment complex.

I’m ashamed about making the assumptions I did, especially when I’m working so hard to debunk stereotypes.

If I’m consciously working at it and still mess up, it seems to me that it would be even easier for someone else to believe negative stereotypes if they’re not actively working to dispel them.

There but for the Grace of God

The gap between North America’s super-rich and its plentiful poor is growing. And a lot of the poverty-stricken arrive there because of unaddressed mental health issues.

Witnessing the bluebox scavenger was a great reminder to me to treat others with dignity; to practice generosity and have an open heart.

As I was thinking about all this, a Maclean’s magazine arrived in my mailbox (that’s the Canadian equivalent of Time Magazine.)

With growing alarm, I read an article about the gun-toting governor from Texas, and I began to worry about the future for my neighbors to the south. Especially my neighbors who, like me, struggle with a mental health issue or anyone living on the margins, for that matter.

I really don’t think scrounging for liquor bottles constitutes a sound savings policy or a good job prospect, but what will be left for those of us already struggling if someone like Rick Perry gets into office?

To be continued…

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Blue Box Scavenger

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2011). Blue Box Scavenger. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 27 Sep 2011
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