Picking Up the Trash

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I remember walking up the steps towards the law school about nine years ago with my then-boyfriend, Hubby, and he stopped to pick up a piece of trash. He carried it into the building, and threw it away. As I got to know him better, and I saw him do this many times, I finally asked, "Why are you picking up everyone else's trash?"

I have to admit, I did not ask in the nicest tone.

He explained, nicely, that his dad always picked up trash left on the ground, and he just felt like it was the right thing to do. Well you can't really argue with that, now can you? I could just see his dad doing that, and the more I thought about it, I could actually see my dad doing it. In fact, I know he did. Hubby remembered his dad, surgeon in scrubs, bending to pick up trash as he walked into the hospital. I remembered my dad, superintendent in suit, bending to pick up trash as walked into the school building. They certainly didn't want to get their hands dirty, but they didn't mind doing their part.

A few years later, near Christmas, as I was discussing shopping for presents and the general hustle and bustle of the season, my dad said, "You know, it is always nice to give the garbage men a little something."


"They work hard, and I'm sure they would appreciate it. I'm sure the gesture would mean something."

I thought about that, and I thought about how I am surrounded by men who willingly pick up other people's trash. I thought about how my dad has probably been giving the garbage men Christmas cash for years. Then I thought about how my little boys wait with bated breath, every week, for the garbage truck to arrive. They stand at the glass door, jump up and down, and wave. The garbage men honk and wave back. If I need to show seasonal gratitude and appreciate to anyone, it is these guys - who entertain my children and pick up my trash.

So, I taped an envelope to the top of the can, and they waved extra big that day. It wasn't much, but it was something. That was a couple years ago, and let me tell you, we get Super Deluxe Garbage Treatment now. They always smile and wave back at my boys, honk, and roll the garbage can up the driveway when we are not home. It was money well spent.

All this thinking about trash has been time well spent for me. I plan to be a little less annoyed the next time Hubby pauses at the park to pick up someone else's empty chip bag, and honestly, I hope my boys will continue that quiet tradition of their father and grandfathers. I'm sure they will give that empty chip bag to me to hold, and that will be just fine.

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One Response to “Picking Up the Trash”

  1. So impressive. I remember a similar story from a few years ago...David Shi and I got out of his car and started walking through the parking lot to the admin building. He bent down in his suit to pick up every piece of garbage he saw as well. Now, I try to do that at FU as well. I love it when people lead by quiet example. This is a great story.