Brother Friendly

Mike McGough
August 2021

The day started out warm.  By mid-morning it was hot.  By noon it was sweltering. The humidity was a sticky match.   This was yet another in a stretch of similar days.  A local pastor seized the moment.   He offered a humorous yet poignant reminder on the church signboard that read, “If you think it’s hot here. . .?” 

Days like this one easily call to mind a line from Neil Diamond’s song, Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.  In describing an August night in a revival tent, he said it was so hot and still that, “. . . you’d almost bet you could hear yourself sweat.”  It wasn’t August, and it wasn’t a revival, but it was that hot.

Because of heat advisories, she got up early to get her run in, before the serious heat set in. She generally ran between two and four miles.  She wasn’t fast, and that was okay because she wasn’t racing anybody.  Because she ran similar routes, there were several other walkers and runner who she routinely saw on her morning outings.  There was usually a casual greeting followed by a brief exchange as they passed.   She knew some of their names, and she didn’t know others.  That really didn’t matter, it was just nice to engage in some pleasant greetings.  It was an agreeable way to start the day.  On this day, she met someone new.  They had seen each other before, but today they would exchange greetings.       

His was a necessary job.  It wasn’t easy, glamorous, or overtly pleasant.  It was nonetheless essential to the community.  Without he and others in his line of work, communities would face problems that would produce significant consequences in short order.  His work is done quietly, with little fanfare, and regrettably with little credit for the range of potential social, health, and environmental problems those in his life of work keep in check.  He’s a loader on a sanitation truck. Regardless of the weather he rides the back of the truck.  His typical day starts at 7:00 am, and although most work days are eight hours long, his often runs much longer. 

On that day he was one of two guys hanging on the back of the truck.  As the driver approached the trash containers along their route, he or his partner would jump off, and drag the container to the truck, so it could be emptied.  The physical exertion of his job left him sweat soaked.  His gloves were well used, and they had gotten thoroughly dirty and stained in the process.

As she approached the truck, she waved and offered a friendly greeting.  He responded in kind with a big smile.  As she got closer, he held up his well-worn and thoroughly stained work-gloved hand to offer her a high-five.  She laughingly and respectfully declined.  She did however, sincerely appreciate the friendly gesture, and she let him know that she did.  Their entire encounter lasted no more than 30 seconds, but it left a positive impression on her. 

His manner fascinated her.  As she later shared, this young man greeted her in a way that clearly demonstrated that he was making the most of his day.  Charged with a responsibility that would leave many people disgruntled and sullen, he opted to go about his day with social charm and interpersonal grace.  He had an opportunity to be pleasant and he made the most of it.  He not only did his job, but in the process, he made her day a bit more pleasant.

Everyone has a bad day now and again.  Some people tend to have them more frequently than others.  And unfortunately, there are those whose bad days far and away outnumber the good.  If asked, these folks could give any number of reasons for their less that happy demeanor and their sorely affected interpersonal skills.  Their outlook is dim, their perspective is tainted, and as a result they project either nothingness or a negative persona.

That is clearly not the case with this trash loader.  He could easily go about his day focused on the less agreeable aspects of his job.  Instead, he clearly focuses on the positives, which enables him to project a model of sociability and genuine friendliness worthy of emulation.  We all have choices about how we go about our days and how we interact with those we encounter. 

On your next not-so-perfect day, consider this trash loader’s example.  Greet people with the interpersonal friendliness that he showed. It will enhance your day and brighten the day for the people you encounter.  You may not have the impact of Brother Love and his salvation show, but you could easily have the influence of Brother Friendly and his show of kindness!

Thanks, Jake!