It started with a bathtub.

The bathtub looked to be in fairly decent condition and it was sitting on the side of the road, at the edge of a vast dirt field. Just sitting there. Begging someone to take a bath in it.

Okay, so there was no water and it was in public so the bather would have to be fully clothed and wouldn’t get very clean, but still. That bathtub wanted someone to at least pretend to take a bath in it.

My kids were game and so one day we drove by the field and planned to seat all three of them in the tub and take a photo.

Unfortunately, the bathtub was gone.

But, the idea was planted.

What if we took pictures of ourselves using the trash on the side of the road as if the items weren’t trashed?

The next time we drove out to the desert we passed an oven. Lucy jumped out of the car and pretended to be placing a tray of cookies plastic bags into the oven. I snapped a photo, we drove on.

Next it was a washing machine. On the way to school Lucy pretended to do a load of wash.

Another day we saw an old bike and did a quick drive-up. Hopped out of the car, she jumped on the bike, I snapped a few photos, and we drove off. People stared. We laughed. It was awesome.

Lucy actually does use her trash, she repurposes trash into toys, she asks for boxes at the grocery store and builds bunk beds for her American Girl doll. She uses old jam jars for storing potions. She takes her brother’s old socks and t-shirts and sews clothes for her dolls. Empty cereal boxes become treasure chests. She worked with Daddy to build a picnic table and benches out of garbage in our new yard and they transformed a wall meant to divide the men’s and women’s portions of our house (we didn’t need it) into a screen door.

I started seeing garbage in a whole new way. On my morning jogs, my eyes were peeled for things we could use. Lucy started asking me what I saw that day and we would laugh and go out searching.

There is a lot of trash in the streets in Djibouti. A lot. And I think I can safely say that 99% of our visitors over the years have asked about this.

“Why don’t they pick it up?”

“Why did that guy just toss his Coke bottle out the window?”

“Doesn’t it bother people?”

And on and on.

Addressing those questions, the assumptions behind them, and the answers for them (if there are answers) is beyond the scope of this little blog post. But, I’ve noticed something about the trash that spills over into all of life. If I look at the trash and feel disgusted or discouraged, that is all I see. If, however, I look up over the trash, I might see the sunrise or the row of low mountains or a wild parrot or a flamingo or a group of women beautifully dressed, laughing over an inside joke. I might see beauty, hope, life, community.

The point is, a little change in perspective can totally change how I feel or how I respond to a situation. Before this little game we are playing, I would ignore the trash, look over it to see what else I could see. Now? I’m looking right at the trash, trying to find something interesting, thinking about how it could be used, repurposed, or photographed. Lucy and I are having a grand ol’ time and we are taking delight in what is around us, even if it is just garbage.

We have other photos we’ve posted, some we’re saving, a list of things we’re looking for, a list of things we’ve seen that we still need photos of, and a growing list of ways to use various items.

Care to join?

We would love to see how you might #useyourtrash in your city. Legitimately repurposed like the picnic table or used just for kicks, like Lucy did with the oven. Or, share what you have done or can do to #changeyourperspective about something.

Use the hashtag on Instagram #useyourtrash or #changeyourperspective, add a link here in the comments, or we’ll be (eventually) opening a Facebook group for anyone who wants to participate.