The Beans

Growing up, I had an addiction to baseball cards.  Whenever I found a quarter in my pocket, I biked three miles to Glenroy store to buy ball cards.  By the time I was in High School, my addiction had grown worse.  I was no longer buying in packs of 15 cards at the drug store, I was buying cases of 12000 directly from the factory.   I know you are probably asking yourself “what does a baseball card addiction have to do with beans?” Hang on and we’ll get there.

As with most addictions, I was spending every penny I could get my hands on.  When I was in grade school, my only source of income was the few dollars a week my parents gave me to buy milk at school.  I never confessed that I took my milk money to the candy store every week.  The habit continued and grew stronger as I grew older.  I have no idea how many lunches and afternoon milk breaks I skipped before  junior high school.  I do know that I was a very skinny young boy.

The Summer of my 8th-grade year, I started mowing grass for our neighbors.  I now had a real income of seven dollars a week. Combined with my milk money, I could now feed my addiction properly. The baseball card collection started to grow.  I was buying other peoples collections by the shoebox full.  I picked up several other mowing jobs that Summer.  While in 10th grade, I landed a contract at the nursing home where my sister worked.  It was a large estate on the side of the tallest hill in Wellston.  Since it was a difficult yard, it paid quite well.  I made twenty-five dollars a week on that lawn. That is when my addiction went full tilt.  I now had enough money to meet the $1000 minimum order from the factory.  By the end of high school, my collection consumed most of the attic closet.

We’ll get to the beans soon.  Please be patient.  Until this point in my life, I could always count on mom and dad to feed me.  Even when I had spent all of my lunch money to feed my baseball card addiction, I could count on a good breakfast and good dinner at mom’s table. After graduation from high school, that changed.  I moved to Columbus to attend DeVry Institute of Technology.  Columbus was two hours away from mom’s bountiful kitchen table.  I had no job, and now I was responsible for rent utilities, tuition, gas, car payment and a thousand dollar a year habit.  I needed a job fast.  Landing a job at the local grocery store, I had dreams of cheap food and enough money to support my habit.

Well, the job didn’t pay enough to cover all of the new bills let alone support the baseball card habit. I started selling cards in order to put food on the table.  I needed to take quick action to prevent my precious collection from dwindling. The plan was to find more roommates to help with rent and make more trips home to mom’s kitchen on weekends.  At the end of my first year at DeVry, I moved in with my buddy Brian Myers and his roommates Brian “Buzz” Green and Paul E Bratz Jr.

We now had more people sharing the rent, but that also meant more mouths to feed. I guess we didn’t think that one through too well. Monday meals were always the best since I usually went home on weekends and raided mom’s kitchen. By Wednesday, we were normally eating beans and rice or ramen noodles. By Friday, it was just a potluck of everything left in the cupboard. One such Friday meal was shake and bake rice which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

One Monday night while unpacking from a trip home, I found a jar of mom’s beans.   I had somehow missed the jar when unpacking the night before.  I was a little skeptical about opening a jar that had sat in the hot car all day long, but Buzz was really hungry, so he decided to risk it.  He opened it, put the contents in a kettle and set it on the stove hoping they would smell a little better after they cooked for a while.  Taking a bite of the warm beans, he officially declared them to be spoiled, and not fit for human consumption.  He ate several more bites before placing the kettle back on the stove.

What happened next is something that I’m not proud of, and don’t speak of often.  It was common practice to leave clean pots and pans on the stovetop until there was enough food to cook a meal.  When it was time to cook, we would clear the stovetop, and only the pots needed to cook our rice or ramen noodles for the day would remain.  You need to realize that when there is no food in the cupboards, there is no cooking in the kitchen. You should also realize that the only thing college boys hate more than cooking is cleaning the kitchen.  Well, that bean pot sat there on the stove all night.

The day after the spoiled bean incident, nobody ate.  Buzz was sick, and the only food in the house was a pot of spoiled beans.  At some point, clean pots and pans were returned to the stove top. Whoever did it failed to realize that the pot that was already there was far from clean.  Over the next few days, dishes came, and dishes went from the top of the stove, but the pot of beans remained at the bottom of the pile.  By the end of the week, a somewhat unpleasant smell started emanating from the kitchen area.  The bathroom was on the second floor directly above the kitchen, and there were always strange smells coming from upstairs, so we thought nothing of it.  Over the next couple weeks, the smell became stronger and stronger, and we came to the realization that something unnatural was happening in the house.

By week four, after searching under the sink for rotten potatoes, cleaning out the empty refrigerator, and even searching behind the upstairs toilet for a dookie that may have escaped the bowl,  we began hearing popping noises from the stovetop.  Brian Myers was the first in because he could hold his breath longer than the rest of us.  Everybody else stood back and watched in horror and disbelief.  There at the bottom of the pile was the pot of beans that was already rancid four weeks earlier.  Maggots and all manner of malodorous organisms now covered the fuzzy beans.  Not only did they reek, but they danced and made noises like a bowl of Rice Crispi’s.

We lined up like an old-fashioned fire bucket brigade from Myers in the Kitchen to Buzz at the back door. We handed the pot and its contents like a hot potato from person to person down the line until it reached Buzz.  He slung the door open and holding the pot like an Olympic hammer thrower, threw it as far as he could into the backyard.  Two years later when we moved out, the pot was still lying untouched in its original landing spot.  We never told the landlord the story of the beans for fear that he would keep our deposit to pay the hazmat unit.

Exodus 12:15 commands God’s people to prepare for Passover by removing all yeast or leaven products from their homes seven days prior to the Passover meal.  Leaven in the old testament is a symbol of sin.  As Christians, we need to remove all sin from our lives.  To God, sin stinks worse than those rotting beans on my stove.  We need to search every nook and cranny of our lives.  When we find something  not pleasing to God, we need to throw it as hard and far away as possible.  We must not pretend that the stink doesn’t exist.  We cannot hide our sin under a pile of clean dishes or good deeds.  Only if we confess and renounce our sin, will we find mercy from God.

Proverbs 28:13
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

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