We are Dented Cans

by | Apr 2, 2021

Dented cans are cast aside, although they are not broken. A dent is not the can’s fault, it did not decide to get dropped, or kicked, or mishandled. It just happened. The dent can’t be removed. The dent is on the outside of the can, it cannot be hidden or disguised. Some dents are bigger and more noticeable than others. The can could be rewrapped but the dent will remain.

Even though the contents remain intact, preserved, and safe, people assume they are not….because of the dent.

The cans are often grouped together on a shelf regardless of their contents, from tuna to fruit cocktail. On that shelf, their contents and wrappers mean nothing. They sit together on that shelf with their unfixable dents. Clearly no longer confused with “the perfectly good cans.”

On that shelf, they see that there are many dented cans. They are not the only ones. Their defect…they now see in others. The others see it in them. They sit together on that shelf and their dents are what unite them.

They don’t get discarded or die, they just have their prices drastically reduced. They have lost most of their monetary value. But they don’t care about that; they are still worth something.

The cans are usually purchased by those who need the contents to survive. They are grateful for the dents. They have little money and need to eat, to provide for their families. A can might get picked up by a child who doesn’t even see the dent, but instead is excited to eat fruit cocktail. He is grateful for this dented can. The can leaves the others and he smiles as he feels pride in his dent. The other cans see the pride and it helps them. They become aware that this can truly appreciated his dent.

We are trauma survivors. We are the dented cans.

We didn’t cause or ask for our dents. We are often ashamed of them and curse them. We are often cast aside as no good, our worth slashed like the prices of the dented cans. We believe we are useless and less-than. We try to cover our dents to gain acceptance and worth, but we know it’s only a cover. It won’t fool anyone. What we don’t realize until we are put on the shelf with the other dented cans is that our insides–our hearts and souls, talents, and gifts–are all still intact. It takes a dented can to truly know another dented can.

Our dents–our traumas–unite us. We see the value in the others and they see it in us.

We are not bad, we are not broken. We are strong and united. We have felt judged and looked down upon by the perfect cans. But when we are known by the other dented cans, we realize that our true value is not measured by our dents, but by our contents. We are grateful that we can provide for those in need. They know that we are intact, preserved, and safe. Through their knowing, we begin to see it, too. Some of us have been on the mark-down shelf for a long time, sometimes all alone. But our dents remind us of our strength and we hang in so that the next can to show up won’t have be alone.

I am a dented can.

I choose to wear my dent as a mark of courage and empathy. And there will always be room on my shelf.

Pete Cargill
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