The things we throw away

Sorting through the dustbins of Bogota in the late 1990’s dustman Jose Gutierrez came across a copy of Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina.  It seemed a terrible waste that the book had been thrown away, so he kept it.  Having found one he soon started to find others and before long his home had been transformed into a library of some 20,000 books, made freely available to the poorest neighbourhoods who could not afford to buy them.


Now 20 years on from that first find the library is playing its part in rehabilitating FARC guerrillas, as after 50 years of civil war they lay down their arms and enter civilian life.  Jose says, “Books transformed me, so I think books are a symbol of hope for those places. They are a symbol of peace.”


It all just goes to show that if we have eyes to see, we may find the most valuable of things in the most unlikely of places – who would have thought that the tools to consolidate the end of 50 years of conflict would be found in a dustbin, and who would have thought that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, would have been found hanging from a cross in the rubbish tip of Jerusalem!

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