Things I Have Learned: The Garbage Man

A somewhat random and reckless look at life from a fairly old guy

by Bill Ward

Today’s Wisdom: When I see garbage trucks, I do not take them personally. I wave, I smile, I wish them luck, and I move on.  ~David Piley

I was recently sitting in the pew at church and noted my wife opening a wrapper on a cough drop. She then crumpled up the wrapper and nonchalantly dropped it in my shirt pocket. I, quietly in my own mind because I’m not stupid, asked, “Am I your garbage dump now?”

The answer in my mind–which surprised me but maybe shouldn’t have because I was sitting in church–was, “Yes.” In a way, that is what I promised to be some 49 years ago when we started our journey through life together.

I am used to being the garbage dump. It is me who picks up the dead mice in the traps. It is me who kills the big spiders in our house. It was me who picked up the dog poop in the yard before she departed, rest her soul. It is also my job to take out the actual garbage. But those are all real garbage things. I’m talking about something different here.

We all have our baggage in life, that stuff that is the less attractive side of us. It is the bad hair days, the sour moods, the impatience, the unmet expectations, and all of the garbage we carry with us, sometimes discretely but often openly.

We can’t hold it in forever, so sometimes we have to express it, share it, throw it, scream at it, or whatever. My job, the one I promised in the “for better or for worse” commitment, is to take it from her as best I can and make life better. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it can be impossible. 

Some of us are good at relieving others of their garbage and dealing with it effectively. However, too often, people want to just throw it back at someone. When I was in police work, we saw a lot of garbage throwing. Some even stuck on us. Perhaps less common is the attitude expressed in the quotation above–basically, “Meh!” That can be healthy.

But the real challenge comes when we actually care about the person holding the garbage. It takes someone special to say, “Give that to me. I’ll help get rid of it.” 

I’m just sayin’.

Bill Ward is a retired healthcare administrator from Minnesota and a regular columnist, author, and untalented rock n’ roll musician. He winters at Casa Del Sol in Donna. You can contact Bill by email at .

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