I pulled into the yard of our local transfer station (dump) and stopped beside the cavernous galvanized building that holds all the recycle bins. As I lifted the door on my SUV, I noticed an elderly man, slowly, and with difficulty, slide out of the cab of a pickup truck next to me and, with the assistance of a cane, make his way to the bed of the truck. When he lowered the lift gate, I noticed that he had several cardboard boxes filled with paper, tin cans, bottles, and plastic.
My first thought was, “how is he going to manage those boxes with one hand while holding the cane in the other. My next thought was, “you can help him.” So I put down my recycle bin, walked over and asked if he could use a little help. He gave me an expressionless look and said “suit yourself”.
I grabbed a couple of boxes and proceeded to separate the assorted articles and deposit them in the proper bins. While doing so, I realized I was getting to know this man, just by what he was discarding. There were cat food cans which told me that at home there was at least one pet waiting for him to return. The cardboard and plastic items spoke of frozen entrees and boxed mixes. Things that were easy to prepare. And tucked in with the newspapers were a couple of issues of “Independent Living” magazine.
When the truck was empty, I went on about my business as he proceeded back to the drivers seat. He had been joined by an elderly lady, obviously his wife who had taken the disposable trash over to the compactor. Apparently, she had observed the process as when she opened the passenger door, I heard her ask him “did you thank that man”? The fact she had to ask suggested that he was not apt to do so voluntarily.
I don’t know what he said, if anything, but as he drove away, I thought to myself “in his own way he did thank me.” Maybe he didn’t say it out loud, but he said it. Thinking back to those copies of Independent Living, I realized he had done it when he had set aside his pride and accepted my assistance. It doesn’t get any better than that.