I suspect most people are capable of far more than they think. Under the right circumstances a lazy person can become a captain of industry. History tells many tales of humble folks who rose to become emperors and kings. Even people who are chronically afraid have the ability to be brave.
Unfortunately, this ability to do unexpected things cuts in both directions. Humans can do things that are better than their own selves. They can also do things that are worse.
The world, especially in light of recent events, often makes us ask, "How can regular people do horrible things?" Like many grand questions, the answer can be found in as mundane a place as a common dumpster.
In order to supplement the vast fortune I am making as a local columnist, I work as a custodian at the Durango Public Library. Sometimes when I go into work there is a cart by the door loaded with ominously heavy boxes.
It should come as no surprise that a place full of books should have to get rid of some every now and again. They get old and worn, not to mention the infinite number of other accidents that can befall an item that regularly circulates through public hands. The books that are thrown away have had a good run. By throwing them out I give a new book a home on the shelf and a chance to be read.
But no matter how much I try to justify it, tossing books in the dumpster will never be right. To me, throwing away just one book is tantamount to blasphemy, let alone boxes of them. Not only do I think it is wrong, but everything in the world seems to want to stop me, from the broken wheel on the cart to the weight of the dumpster lid. Still, I always persist and carry out the deed. Each heavy clunk on the metal floor the dumpster places equal weight upon my heart.
How can I do such a thing? If I had told myself a year ago that I would throw away more books than I can remember, I would never have believed it. Yet here I sit, with ink on my hands.
How could I throw away the first box of words that could have taught me something? The answer is really quite simple. I just did it. There was no magic spell or secret tonic or demon lord that took control of me for a moment. I committed an act I never thought possible just by doing it, and it was easy.
Throwing away a few books is really no great tragedy. Nor is my part in such an act a profound story. But because of it I know it doesn't take a bad person to do a bad thing.
Bad things are out there, just waiting for some poor sap to come along. We must always be aware of where we are going, because none of us are safe from doing things we never thought we would.
But good things are out there, too. All people are capable of greatness, both good and bad. It is true that I have thrown away books, but also true that I snuck a great many home in my car.
Joe D. is a local writer. He enjoys living on the planet Earth, a source of unlimited inspiration. More of his writing can be found at www.sinisterbend.com.