Monday, May 3, 2021

A GARBAGE MAN'S GIFT

 Re worked from Nov. 2014. This post gets a good share of hits even today. It got 12 yesterday. They are probably hitting on the cartoon garbage man.

The smile on his handsome, cleanly shaved young face would have made a smiling Tom Cruise look dour. The young man in his early twenties, young enough to be my son, was wearing military gear and a mile wide grin.

His olive tee shirt was neatly tucked into army fatigues. Both items looked fresh and wrinkle free.  A sailor cap sat at a rakish angle and its stark white matched his spotless white sneakers.  The mixed service attire made me unsure if he were a veteran or just an Army Surplus shopper. He was not a new sight. He was one of our town's unemployed.


I had seen him before in the city park across from my office as he picked up aluminum cans left there from a previous night of teenage fun. The smile was always present as was his fresh pressed appearance. He seemed to be overflowing with boundless energy and good will. My whole office noticed him each morning and envied, not his station in life, but how he was handling it.

Once my elderly little car stalled right in the middle of the street close to the office. He spotted my problem and ran across the park to help me push it to the side of the road. He jiggled a wire or two, thumped the carburetor, smacked the starter and got me running again. I offered him money but he refused and just wished for me to have a great day. With a smile and a wave, he left. 

Then he was gone. I kind of missed his cheerful morning sprints through the park and thought he had moved on till one day we met again while I was working. This was during my meter reading days and I was working an affluent neighborhood. 

I really did not like this route.  It was clean with no dogs but the yards were huge and the lawns were thick cut and spongy. The soft grass really worked our calves and was as much fun as loose sand to walk on. Progress was labored and slow.

 It was quite early in the route and I was feeling a bit grumpy about my day when I heard the garbage truck rumbling behind me. That same young man from the park was hanging on the back of the truck and periodically jumped off to fetch and empty the garbage cans. I was pleased to see he was OK. 

At most of the homes, the man had to walk up long drives, carry the full cans to the truck, empty them and return them to the hiding places. It seems only a few cans had wheels as the owners never had to move them. I am assuming these folks paid more for this special service. I know in less affluent areas that if the cans weren't roadside, they remained full. 
The young man did not walk however but bound off the truck and jogged cheerfully up and down the driveways with his ever present smile and flashing white sneakers.  I could not help but smile back as we passed on one of the driveways.

We stopped to talk for a second as he remembered my car troubles.  Now as some of you know, I am generally a glass half full person and am often annoyingly cheerful or can at least laugh about my circumstances.  But I do have my downer days and this was one of them.

I was about to make a snarky comment about how difficult these people were making our jobs when he said, "Isn't this just the best day ever?  The sky is a brilliant blue, the air crisp (rare in Florida) and look how the sun makes the dew sparkle on the grass."  So I looked. 

That same dew I had just been mentally moaning about making my feet wet suddenly took on a new light. I was now walking on jewelry instead of slopping through thick, wet grass. Slowly, my grumpy attitude changed, reaching up to join his happier one. I couldn't help it. His joy in life was infectious. 

We chatted a bit and discovered we were following the same basic route that day. Then he said with a grin as he dared me, "Bet I can beat you back to the entrance."

"You're on."  I said and suddenly the day became one of challenge and play, not work. 

We raced-- him down the long drives and me thorough spongy lawns.  We grinned as we passed each other and were watchful of the others progress. Oddly I felt full of energy and delight. The long difficult route became a fun, competitive one as I jogged from house to house.

Sometimes I was ahead and but most often he was which gave me incentive to pick up my pace. Luckily I didn't have to carry two garbage cans at a time for each trip or he would have destroyed me. Age and gender do count.   Around noon he beat me to the last house but not by much. 

I had finished that part of my route way ahead of schedule and surprisingly, with all that running, I wasn't tired at all but invigorated. 

We congratulated each other on a race well run and I thanked him for making my day so much fun. We both said we would love to do it again but that was the last I saw of him.  

I have no idea what happened to that young man but I hope--no I know--with that attitude, he continued through life surrounded by joy and peace. He was as successful in his way as Bill Gates could ever be.  Pretty sure he left behind a trail of people like me with an increased appreciation for day to day chores.

Was that a big thing in relation to world peace or amazing inventions? For Patti's small world, yes it was, for it has lasted for over 40 years. 

Should we all be like him?  I doubt it, for sadly there is also a definite need for the driven and intense. No, not all should be like that delightful young man but we could use a bunch more to give our attitudes a boost. Only the determined, darkside inhabitants could avoid being positively affected by him.  
  
I still am unable to apply his approach to the big stuff but it works wonderfully on the daily drudgeries and for remembering to not look, but to see.

Being aware of the positives of a job and not dwelling on the negatives was his gift. It even works for vacuuming---well most of the time:)

Were you ever fortunate enough to meet such a person? Maybe it was even my guy that I somehow suspect traveled a lot. I'm thinking he was kind of the Johnny Appleseed of good cheer.  Perhaps it was someone like him who opened wide your dusty appreciation vaults?  I hope you were as lucky as I was.

39 comments :

  1. I'd like to say I AM that kinda fellow. But, I think the only thing I have in common with him is the white sneakers!

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    1. Annie,
      Ha ha, I think you have more in common with him than sneakers. You are a pretty positive person.

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  2. It is a good reminder of how much our world is experienced by our approach to each day, either grumpy or delighted. Thank you for sharing this wonderful person with me. You have made my day.

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    1. Djan,
      I am so please for he made my day so many years ago. I do believe we have the choice of how to face our days.

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  3. He sounds like a true Bodhisattva.

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    1. Olga,
      Had to look that term up and I think you are right.

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  4. Patti, sitting reading this wonderful story when it occurred to me my jaw was aching from smiling so much! You really are a very kind person who takes little for granted, and how amazing this young man hasn't been far from memory for 45 years. I sure would love to know what became of him. I was going to tell you how fortunate you were, when it occurred to me I DO know someone like this. Her name is Lida, mid-40s, a special needs person in my apartment building who asks me how I'm doing and what are my plans for the day everytime I run into her downstairs, almost daily. I've noticed half the people here go out of their way to avoid her, the other half love her. All I know is, I look forward to seeing her like I do your Monday blogs. :^) Thanks for the terrific share.

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    1. Doug,
      When I post this I keep hoping someone recognizes him and lets me know how he is.
      I am delighted you have Lida in your life but more delighted that she has you in hers. Treasure her and a pox on those who don't.

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  5. When I first met the-son-I-wish-I-had (that I often blog about) he was working as a garbage collector and had the same personality as the young man that you describe in this blog entry. Over the years he's maintained his sense of humor and ability to spread good cheer where ever he goes and he often says, "I love my life!"

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    1. Jean,
      Don't suppose he ever worked in Florida did he? Wouldn't that be great. I am so pleased you have this young man in your life. He has been such a blessing to you.

      Delete
  6. A good reminder that those of us with healthy minds truly have a choice of how to approach each day of our lives. A wonderful story, thank you.

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    1. Inger,
      So glad you enjoyed and yes, we all have the choice, just some of us take the wrong path. I may slip up now and then but usually take the lighter approach. It is so much easier.

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  7. It's good to be reminded of the joyous spirit that has a wonderful way of awakening us to a better world. Thank you for sharing this memory, Patti.

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    1. robin,
      Oh if we could only bottle it. He did show me that it is a choice and one I try to take.

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  8. Great post, glad you re-booted it. THere is something about garbagemen. Those on my grandsons route always take the time to say hello and toot their horn when kids make the request. THey were magnets to toddlers who waited for them on their route dates.

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    1. joeh,
      Perhaps they have chosen a less stressful path and can be open and friendly to all, especially the little ones.

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    2. Yes, and they are all early risers, early risers, unlike myself, are often friendly and cheery in nature.

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  9. I've run into a few people like this young man in my life, but perhaps I've been one of the negative Nellies who resists their joy because no one person sticks out in my mind. I doubt, though, that I could have resisted his good attitude. What a ray of sunshine!

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    1. Eileen,
      Pretty sure you would have been swept up just like I was. His aura was just that forceful.

      Delete
  10. I too met someone similar once a long time ago. But at the time he brought a smile to my tears and it's been over fifty years, but I still remember him. Goes to show how one simple good deed leaves it's mark.

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    1. Rian,
      They are impossible to forget aren't they? So glad you had one especially in a time of need.

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  11. Oh, what a sweetheart. I would marry him in a heartbeat!

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    1. gigi,
      Ah but you married one pretty much like that. David is a peach.

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  12. This is an excellent post! I would like to be more like him, although (as you noted), there is a place in the world for all of us. Including the occasionally grumpy and negative types like me!

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    1. Margaret,
      Me too on being more like him but it's true, we need some driven folks to get stuff done.

      Delete
  13. Wow! I can see why this post continues to garner readers. And why it can make a difference in brightening attitudes, for a moment or for a lifetime.

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    1. LC,
      Thanks but I really think they click on the cartoon to get to the post. Good attitudes like you have can really make a difference to the people around us.

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  14. I've known a few people so happy in their jobs they float through he days on a cloud of euphoria. I've also known too many who moan and complain the whole day long.

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    1. River,
      I know it is almost like they are on the drug of happiness. Feel for those who are always unhappy and make them around them the same.

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  15. I used to waitress with a female that was so positive. She said she liked to be so positive she could change the vibration in a room which I found amazing. She could change the vibration in a room too. It was amazing to watch.

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    1. Sue,
      Can you imagine your waitress and my garbage man in the same room? It would vibrate. Wonder if those types marry the same?

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  16. There's no doubt that being around people who are positive and cheerful can fundamentally make us feel better. Especially someone like me with Domesday syndrome.

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    1. Joey,
      Pretty sure you get that feeling around your kids and that cutie granddaughter.

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    2. Joey,
      I did mean the "good feeling" around your family. Not Domesday syndrome.

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  17. Years ago (late 1950's) I was living in NY City ... probably the last place you would expect to meet a person like that, but I did. I lived on the East side but worked on the West and I loved to walk there early every morning. I met a sweet young man selling breakfasts from a cart and he had a very strong Irish accent. He was trying to earn enough money to get back there and we became great friends. I always knew when he was near because he played a flute when not selling his wares. He ALWAYS had a smile and especially the day that he told me he had saved enough and was going back to Ireland to marry his school girl friend ! Luckily I had a boyfriend of my own by then so could send him off with lots of luck !

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    1. Ginnie,
      What a delightful story about such a special young man. I am so happy you had him in your life and that he had you in his. You must wonder sometimes what happen to him but like my fellow, you know only good came his way. Thank you for the warm smiles.

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  18. (He was a wonder.) And to see...that's the trick to our days.

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  19. What a totally amazing guy! I hope nothing but good things were in store for him as he jogged through life. I'm sure you made his day too, Patti.

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