Have you ever been at the grocery store in the back near the swinging doors right between the meat counter and cheese counter rummaged through that buggy marked “Reduced for Quick Sale”? I cannot help myself when I see a dented can to pick it up and shake it like a Christmas present. Hold it next to my ear to see if it sloshes or thuds. The label is missing so I cannot tell what exactly is inside the can. I just know it’s been carelessly dropped or perhaps knocked off the shelf and now it sits in the “bargain buggy” marked down and no one to take it home.
 
From time to time, I take one of those unlabeled dented cans home. I haul all my bounty in and spread it out and find the damaged can, whip out my can opener and open it up. At times, I have found sauerkraut, beans, beets, and even peaches. When I score big with something sweet and wonderful, I do a little nod to the can as if I know how it feels. Then I get the beets and I pour the juice out and toss the unwanted contents away. I feel a bit of dread in my heart when I open up one of those cans and find something I turn my nose up to… and not because I was hoping to eat the surprise, but because I didn’t want it either. I feel bad for the discount can.
 
That’s like life… lessons creep in knock us from our lofty shelves. Our beautiful wrappers are torn and our body is dented. We place so much value on the packaging we fail to appreciate the special contents. I feel that we carry labels and we rate ourselves on this. I have labels on my life, Wife, until divorce changed that. There sat a dented unshelf worthy can of woman. I had hoped to wear Mother as a label, and that did not happen resulting in another dent. I have other labels in which I have torn or scratched with poor decisions or mistakes, like friend, sister, daughter, and co-worker.
 
The damage I am learning doesn’t define the person, but refines us. I am discovering we all have damage to our packaging and labeling. I have discovered that life lessons are inevitable and not intended to take value, but to add to our depth and worth and character. I was thinking of a special lady when I brought my unlabeled and dented can home as I waited for the can opener to do its magic. As I stood with anticipation of what treasure my unwanted can might have. I was thinking of this special person I met some years before who gave me some words of advice. She said you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a man by his words.
 
She has passed on from this world, and I recently ran into her daughter. Her daughter has transformed into a beautiful woman just as her mother. She is wise and weathered and genuine, just as Ms. Janet. Ms. Janet smoked long skinny cigarettes and always sat back and listened rarely giving a lot to a conversation. But she understood in life, we all have our own path. We all have our own dents and labels we carry. She taught me to look for the insides of people and not so much the outside. She lived this example with her husband. She allowed his dents and ripped labels to be there without ever disturbing his beautiful contents. She taught me rough words spoken or bad decisions made do not define a person. She loved him past the exterior. She loved him right to the sweet cling peaches inside his dented old can.
 
I recently ripped another label from my dented can. I placed myself in the “Reduced for Quick Sale” buggy and I was waiting there as if my value had decreased. I learned opening up those dented unshelf worthy cans that we all serve a purpose regardless of our labels or lack of…the inside is what we are after!
 
Aunt B
 
About The Author: Barbie Driskell (Aunt B) was raised in the shade of pine trees of East Texas.

“I am very proud of my roots, just like a pine tree, may not be deep but they sure take over when left to their own devices. I smile frequently, laugh genuinely and live simply.”