We all long to feel appreciated. We want to know if other people recognize that the things we do are important. It is integral to our happiness in all of our relationships, from friendships and marriages to employers and children. And today I learned, from a very simple source, that a little gratitude goes a long way.
For the past three years, since we have lived in our current house, we have had the same garbage men. They come every Monday and Thursday to collect our waste and take it away. I cannot imagine a much more thankless and disgusting job. And yet, I must admit, that for those same three years I have harbored a slight annoyance at them – simply because they were careless about where they left our can. Sometimes it would end up down the street a bit, often several feet away from the lid. And I would always grumble about why they couldn’t just put it back on the curb. All that changed when my son became fascinated with “Dump Trucks.” From our kitchen, we can hear the truck coming around the block and for a half hour every Monday and Thursday morning, I hear the repeated exclamation, “Mommy, the DUMP TRUCK’s coming!” And as it get’s closer and louder, he says with surprising urgency, “The dump truck! I need to go see it!” And we will stop whatever we are doing, sometimes covered in breakfast, and go marching outside to see the dump truck. We wave emphatically and, because I am trying to teach my son to be polite and grateful despite the grumblings in my own mind, I tell him to say thank you loud enough for them to hear it over the din of the truck. All three of the men have come to recognize us and smile broadly as we walk out the door. The driver “beeps” his horn, and one of the collectors always waves and gives thumbs up. Today and for the past several weeks since we began thanking them, the garbage can was placed nicely on the curb with the lid on top. I never said anything to them about it. It was just a natural response to kindness. It made me wonder how often these men, who do such an amazing service for us, ever receive thanks. Of any kind. I intend to continue thanking them long after my son’s fascination wanes.
And then I began to consider all of the other unappreciated jobs that people do for us on a regular basis and how rarely we stop to thank them and make them feel like what they do is important. Too often we feel entitled to services we would never perform. Security guards at shopping centers. Check out clerks at grocery stores. People working fast food windows. Entergy service technicians working at midnight in a storm. The doctors and nurses at public clinics who even work holidays. If we wouldn’t want to do their jobs, but we utilize their services, shouldn’t we be much quicker to show gratitude? And not just to people doing jobs we don’t want to do, but also to those closer to home who do jobs we would have to do if they did not. Like a spouse’s trip to the grocery store or afternoon spent folding laundry. Or a child’s willingness to pick up their things when asked, or a colleague sharing the workload on a big project that could never be finished in time alone. I think we’d find that we would get much better service with a much bigger smile if we found small ways to regularly say thank you. And we may even make someone else’s job a bit easier and their day a bit brighter.
A common thread that runs through all of humanity is, to be appreciated, no matter who we are, or where we are in life. Sadly, in our culture, people are often valued for the size of their paycheck and nothing more.
When I read this, it reminded me of a friend of mine, from years ago, that decided to serve Krispy Kreme donuts to the men that picked up her trash. She did that for a couple of weeks or so, and I am sure they have never forgotten it.
We have all learned this lesson many times over, in the small gesture of something as simple as a smile, as we walk by someone, the smile is usually returned.
To be validated, is something we all want and need.
Isn’t it amazing that children are usually some of the greatest teachers in life? So sad that in this society, they also are often overlooked, for the value they bring to life. Through the eyes of Aiden, you looked beyond the exterior and looked a little deeper.
This is so true – and I really believe that usually, we don’t even get to SEE how far a little kindness goes. It’s pretty awesome when we do get to see the results, though :)
Btw, I’m going to do some revamping of my blog this weekend, including adding a blog roll of blogs I follow, and Nostalgia In The Making will be on my list, for sure!
This is very true. If we only see a small fraction of the effects of our own kindness, it’s wonderful to imagine the bredth of it’s unknown influence.
And thanks for spreading the word. I’m glad your reading and enjoying. It means a lot from someone who’s writing I respect.
This is a great post. One of the most toxic elements of the culture is the worshipping of the wealthy and powerful, the addiction to “celebrities” when the people who do these essential jobs are far more important to every one of us, every day.
I completely agree and thank you!