Dad and the Trash Man · 17 July 2010
On trash day in the summer, I tend to think of my dad. Not because he is a retired trash man (although if he was, he would have been the best), but because of how he treats his own trash man.
During at least the summer months and on special occasion, my dad likes to give the trash man treats. When he puts out the garbage in the morning, he attaches a bag to the trash can. In the bag is a soft drink and an ice pack. He once commented that he has never had to pay for an extra bag or can of trash, but that is not why he gives the garbage men treats. Dad gives them treats because he respects what they do as he respects people from all professions.
At school, I have heard people tell newbies to make sure they do not upset the head secretary or head custodian, because they have the greatest potential to make life miserable. While this is true, I like to think of the advice in positive terms like my dad would use. My dad always told us kids to respect everybody regardless of what they did. Not because of how they could affect us, positively or negatively, but because what each person does is important in any organization.
I give this same lesson to my students and my children. I let them know that every person who contributes positively to society has value and deserves respect. And as with most of my tidbits of wisdom like this, I tell them a story. A story about my dad.
When I was in junior high and high school, my dad was the superintendent of a uranium mill. He was the boss. I remember going out to the mill with him one day to see what he did. When we first got there, Dad introduced me to his secretary. She had a big smile and I am sure my dad teased her a bit as he always does with everybody. I am equally sure that she teased him back. He showed me his office and introduced me to his boss and then we toured the place.
As we walked around the facility, people came up to Dad to talk to him about issues at the mill. He would chat with them and talk about technical stuff, and then they would leave to get back to whatever it was they were doing. While this was to be expected, I marveled that as we were just walking from place to place, everybody said, “Hello,” and smiled at my dad. I must have shown my amazement at this because Dad told me one of his secrets of success.
What my dad told me is something that has stayed with me all my life and that I try to pass on to my children and to my students. He told me that everybody deserves respect and everybody has good ideas. While some people may look at education or net worth or social status, Dad never does. He did not just tell me that I should respect everybody, he showed me. I doubt that he placed any value on the work totem pole, but even the lowest person on it could talk to and give input to my dad. And he would listen as he did with everybody who talked with him that day at the mill.
I was reminded of that story one morning this summer as I heard the garbage man coming around. Without his effort, we would have trash on the streets and in our back yards. He deserves respect as much as the doctor we see when we are sick. Maybe even more because he affects us every week. As I heard the truck go around the neighborhood and remembered my dad’s efforts to refresh the trash men with a soft drink or two, I thought about doing what he does. We did not have any cold soft drinks and I was too late to get a bag tied to the can. But I did make it out with a bottle of water. I gave it to our trash man along with a few words of thanks. He thanked me for the water.
I am sure that I will not give the garbage man a treat every week this summer, but I also know that I will try to thank him with one every once in a while. I will do it because I appreciate him and the important work that he does. I will do it because I want to be like Dad.
I like trash day, because trash day reminds me to respect everybody. And it reminds me of my dad.
© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi
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