The Tale of A Trashcan Salamander: Don’t Let Your Circumstances Define You

I almost titled this post “The Tail of A Trashcan Salamander.” See what silly punniness I (almost) stopped myself from indulging in ;).


One unusually quiet fall morning, I sipped my coffee, cherishing the few minutes of quiet between my husband leaving for work and my hungry-bird kiddos waking to demand to be fed the moment their feet hit the floor.

Normally at this time on a Monday morning, there is rough and tumble sound of the garbage can being rolled down my pebble driveway. Instead came the clomp of my husband’s boots on the front steps. When I opened the door, his gloved hands were cupped around some unidentified thing.

“Hey babe, I’ve got something for you.”

My mind filtered through the possibilities. You see, he’s brought me baby birds, baby rabbits, baby squirrels… We once rescued a flying squirrel and he was one of the best pets we ever had. Eight sweet years with my boy, Patch. 

I cringed. “…What is it???”

I love all creatures great and small, but after having kids, the nurturing part of my nature is well-expended. I sincerely hoped that whatever was in his hands did not need my care.

He slowly opened his hands to reveal a small salamander. Black with greenish-yellow iridescent flecks. He said, “It was on the trashcan. I almost smashed it.”

I laughed, knowing that had his bare touched the slick slithering thing, I would have heard an unmanly scream resonating from my driveway. (Don’t tell him I wrote that.)

I tucked the little guy in a jar to show the kids when they woke. Me being me, I had to know what this unusual little critter was. I knew he was uncommon. I just didn’t realize how uncommon.

I located a picture who matched my little guy, a Green Salamander. Beside his name were the words, “Rare, Threatened Species.” 

…Great. A rare, threatened species was now in my care…. Any wrong move on my part and I could be responsible for the demise of an entire species! 

Not to worry, the fate of Green Salamanders in Tennessee was not long in my hands. A friend of ours is a director at this amazing outdoor-based school nearby, and she was quite eager to meet him.

Our cute little guy even earned himself a visit from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to be weighed and have his picture taken. They were quite excited to hear about our little trashcan salamander. Last I heard, he was relocated to the salamander sanctuary at the school. A much more  appropriate location than the handle of my trashcan. 

And me being me, I saw something deeper from my encounter with the little creature that blipped into my life. If you have borne with me this long, hang on just a moment more, and I’ll tell you what a little trashcan salamander has to do with you.

My little salamander was found in a humble place. Stinky…disgusting. But though he was found in an ordinary, not so nice place, it did not change who he was. He was rare. He was beautiful. He was important and sought after. His circumstances did not define him.

My friend, maybe you look around you and see humble surroundings. Maybe life has not been kind. Maybe people wrinkle their nose at your situation in life. Or maybe everyone around you has done their best to convince you just how ordinary you are. But it does not change who you are. Whose you are. You are a child of God, made in His image. Have eyes to see the rare, one-of-a-kind beauty that you are. Surround yourself with others who have those same eyes. I see you. I see your worth, your value in the grand scheme of life.

As I write this, maybe it’s a little silly that I start with a salamander and end up here, but I can’t help but think about Someone else I know. Three men came in search of a King, and found a lowly babe born in a humble, stinky place. His surroundings did not change who He was, is, and ever will be.

Your circumstances can do so many things for you. Teach you. Train you. Position you for your future in ways you never imagined. But, for better or worse, don’t let it define you. Don’t define other people by them. ❤

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