The Black Bag Story
Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl who was born to a mother who lived in a trash heap. The mother did not want to live in a trash heap, but she had nowhere else to go… she had no home, no job, and no family. The mother wished with all her heart that she had a nice cozy house to live in, and money to buy her little girl dolls and teddy bears, and cupcakes and pizza, and all the other things that little girls love. But all she had was a piece of a blue tarp she had found in the trash heap, and a couple of boards she had propped up so her and the little girl had a place to huddle when it rained. Every day she dug through the rotten meat covered with flies, the pieces of glass, and the orange peels and apple cores, hoping to find something for her and her little girl to eat. Some days she found a few strawberries that didn’t stink too badly or a chicken bone with a little meat on it, but other days all she could find was a couple pieces of wilted lettuce. In the beginning, the mother gave the best of what she found to the little girl, because deep down, she was proud of her beautiful girl and she wanted her girl to have a better life than what she had. But, as time went on, the mother became more and more angry with the girls’ father, who had gone away and left them to live in the trash heap.
The girl grew bigger each day, and it got harder and harder to find food for them both, and the mother started blaming the little girl for her problems. “If you had not been born,” she told the girl one day, “I would not have to spend my whole day digging around in this stinky trash heap to find food for both of us.”
The little girl did not know what to say. It was not her fault that she had been born into the trash heap. All she knew was that she was beginning to be afraid of her mother. She spent her days huddled under the blue tarp, sucking her thumb to try and soothe the gnawing pain in her stomach, and the heavy black feeling in her heart. The mother did not save the best food for the little girl anymore. She ate the best food herself, and threw the girl some old banana peels or chicken bones at the end of the day. The little girl did not know what to do. Sometimes the food her mother gave her was so bad that she couldn’t make herself eat it, even though she was a little girl who was used to eating trash. Sometimes she was afraid the food would make her sick. The little girl did not know what to do with the things her mother threw to her. These were the only gifts her mother ever gave her… the only attention she ever got from her mother, so she couldn’t make herself just throw them away.
One day, she was poking around in the trash heap and she found a big black bag without any holes in it. She took it and hid it somewhere behind the blue tarp shelter, and after that, whenever her mother threw her anything that was too bad for her to eat, she would put it into the black bag.
One day, she found the path that led to the trash heap, and she started sitting beside the path every day, hoping that maybe someone would notice her when they came to throw away their trash and give her something to eat. But the people were in too big of a hurry. The little girl was so small and frail that they never even noticed her, and the girl was too scared to ask them to help her. Sometimes when the people threw their trash bags onto the trash heap, they landed right beside the little girl. The girl did not understand… she thought the people were throwing their trash at her, just like her mother did. She would carefully sort through all the trash and take out anything that was ok to eat, and put the rest in her black bag. One day, a big man threw a bag of potatoes onto the trash heap, and the bag burst open and a huge smelly potato hit the girl in the face. It left a red mark and hurt for the rest of the day. But she picked up the potato and put it into her black bag with the rest of her trash.
That night, after her mother was asleep, the little girl opened her black bag and looked at all the trash she had collected. She could remember where each piece of trash had come from, and who had thrown it at her. She wondered what she had done to deserve all that trash. She thought and thought, but she couldn’t think of anything she had done to deserve all that unkindness. She thought about what her her mom had said, that she wished she should never have been born, and finally she decided, “I guess I’m just a little girl who was made to live in a trash heap.”
One day, a kind man came down the path to throw away his trash and saw the little girl. “What are you doing here?” he asked the little girl. “The trash heap is not the place for a little girl.” The girl told the man she didn’t know, that she had always lived in the trash heap. This made the man very sad, and he said, “Come home with me. I can’t stand to leave you hear in the trash heap.
The little girl was scared, because she had never been out of the trash heap, but she went with the man. She took her black bag along with her. The man saw the black bag and thought it was strange, but he didn’t say any thing. The man’s wife felt sad for the little girl too and fixed a big pot of soup. She told the little girl she could have all she wanted. The girl had never smelled or tasted anything besides trash, and she could not believe how good the soup was. The man and his wife put her to sleep on the couch, and they noticed that she kept the black bag right beside her. When the girl finally woke up, the man and his wife told the girl they wanted to adopt her. “You will always have a home with us,” they told her, “you will be our daughter now.” The little girl was so grateful to her new parents, but it was hard for her to believe they actually meant what they said. She was still lugging around her big black bag, and she knew she always smelled just a little bit like trash. The parents wondered why the little girl kept the black bag. They asked her what was in it and why she kept carrying it. They offered to burn it up for her. But when they started talking about the black bag, the little girl always got mad, so finally they left her alone.
At first the little girl tried to do everything perfectly so that her new parents would love her. But she did not know very much about love and kindness, because no one had ever been kind to her. Sometimes she stole food from the kitchen cupboards and hid it under her bed, because she could never quite believe she would get enough to eat. And when she made a mistake, she always lied to cover it up. One day, one of her brothers accidently kicked her black bag with his foot, and a banana peel fell out. The little girl screamed at him and called him horrible names. “Don’t you EVER touch my bag again!” she told him. That night, when the girl went to bed, she felt awful. She opened up her big black bag, and looked at every piece of trash. She could still remember where each piece had come from, and who had thrown it at her. “I do not deserve all the good things these people have given me,” she whispered to herself. “I am a little girl who was born to live in a trash heap.” Soon this became a habit for the little girl. Every night she would go thru the enormous black bag, and whisper to herself over and over again, “I don’t deserve love. I deserve trash.” Soon she stopped accepting the good things her new family did for her. When they would give her birthday gifts and make her favorite foods, she would say thank you, but then just put them in her big black bag along with all her trash. Her family was hurt by this, and that made the girl feel worse and worse. Now when she looked in her black bag each night, she felt guilty too instead of just mad. “I have made these nice people’s house stink like trash,” she would say to herself. “I have turned everything they have given me into trash. I don’t deserve love. I deserve trash.” Her black bag became an obsession to her. By now it was so big it took all her energy to lug it around. She would hardly even talk to her family, except to shout at them when they got too close to her black bag. By now her siblings were scared of her, and she stank so much that they just tried to avoid her. Her parents could never have their friends over because the whole house stank like trash. Sometimes they wondered if they had done something to make her act this way, but they knew they had always treated her kindly. Everyone in the family was so sad for the little girl, but they didn’t know how to help her, because she wouldn’t turn loose of her black bag.
Then one day, the unthinkable happened! The little girl was lugging her huge, heavy black bag across the kitchen floor when it bumped against the table leg and burst wide open! All the trash came spilling out, and a horrible smell filled the room! The little girl had never been so frightened and angry! Her mother was making supper and the girl began screaming at her and throwing trash all around the room! A rock flew through the kitchen window, and her mother was dodging old lemons and rotten tomatoes while trying to get out of the girls way as fast as she could. Soon the fridge and stove were covered with ketchup and ranch dressing from the bottles the girl was throwing around. The girl’s father and her brothers and sisters came running up to see what was going on, and just stood there with their mouths open, watching the little girl… her face was red, her eyes were wild, and she was insane with rage. Her siblings were afraid, and went and locked themselves in their bedrooms. They tried to block out the noise and think of something else, but the little girl was screaming too loud, and the house smelled so horrible they could hardly breathe! The father and mother stood helpless, watching the little girl scream and rage until she was completely worn out. Finally the little girl lay face down in the middle of the trash, and sobbed and sobbed.
The father watched the girl that he had loved from the first time he saw her in the trash heap with a deep ache in his heart. He wanted to make her understand how much he cared about her, and how he wanted her to be free of all the trash she was carrying around. Finally, when the girl was calm, he knelt beside her and put his hand on her back. “Go away,” she said, “This is my trash. You don’t belong here!” She started crying again but the kind father just knelt beside her in the trash and waited. Finally the girl looked up at her father, who looked back at her with kind, sad eyes. “Let’s clean up all this trash and throw it in the pond,” he said. And so they did. It took them hours and it was a nasty, messy, stinky job. They ended up with a huge wheelbarrow piled high with trash and took it back behind their house to a dirty little pond that was so smelly and stagnant there were not even any fish living in it. “This is where trash belongs,” the father told the little girl. Still it was hard for the little girl to let go of all her trash. She looked at the potato that had hit her on the face and remembered how it felt do sit beside the trash heap and hope that someone would notice her, but no one did. She looked at the banana peel her mother had thrown at her the day she told her she wished she hadn’t been born, and she remembered how lonely and scared she had felt. But the father said, “All the trash must go.”
When the father and the little girl finally finished unloading all the trash they threw away their clothes and took long showers to get all the horrible trash smells off themselves. That evening when they sat down for supper the girl could not believe how good she felt! That night she fell asleep right away because she wasn’t looking at all her trash and whispering bad thoughts to herself. Her siblings started enjoying being around her, because she had energy to play with them…. Her black bag was gone…. There was nothing to protect, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Some days, someone would say something to hurt the girl’s feelings. Or maybe even a stranger would scowl at her in town. Maybe her mom would make something she didn’t like for supper… these things always made the little girl bad inside, and then she would start picking up trash again. Some evenings when the father got home from work, he would see his little girl walking around with her arms full of trash, scowling at everyone. When he saw that, he would remind the little girl, and if she would listen to him, they would go down to the old dirty pond, and the father would tell the little girl, “This is where trash belongs!” As she threw her arm load of trash into the pond, she always felt better right away. And as the trash sunk to the bottom of the pond, the father would tell her again, “If you are carrying around a big black bag of trash, you will spend all your energy just trying to lug the bag around and keep others away from you. It will be a lonely life, because most people don’t want to be around someone who smells like trash. Only when you can let go of your trash will you be at peace in your heart, and have room to give and receive love.”
*I wrote this for my sister probably 4 years ago after her therapist was talking to her about carrying a black bag of trash around. It's obviously about adoption, but don't we all do this every once in a while!