Thursday, March 17, 2011

To All of the People Who Clean Up the Mess...

We are all caught up in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects one directly effects all indirectly.
- Martin Luther King

This morning I was making the bed and Thursday's familiar sound woooshed by me outside the window.  I paused and noticed: the street sweeper swept the gutters of my block.  He always does, every Thursday.  I have an irrational fondness for our street sweeper.  For me, he harkens back to the old-fashioned guy with the broom who used to sweep the streets in the 1920's in a Dick Van Dyke kind of way.  It makes me happy that with all of the government cutbacks and things we have to scrimp on and lose that we still have somebody who takes the time to sweep our streets.  Listening to those big round brushes scrub away gives the satisfying feeling that even our streets can be clean.

Instantly, my mind flashes to the horrific disaster in Japan.  The colossal mess that the tsunami and earthquake have created make me discouraged and defeated just seeing the images.  I cannot even begin to imagine the level of depression and overwhelming impossibility that the Japanese must feel.  I am no expert in Japan but this I know: they take pride in their cleanliness and tidiness.  Their demolished towns, mounds and mounds of dirty debris and physical ruin everywhere must be a nightmare of the highest proportions for them.  

And then, seemingly out of every corner, you see them...the people who clean up the mess.  We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed by disorder and we all know the way to clean it up: one step at a time. Tackling an impossible closet, an overstuffed garage or even debris-filled streets begins the same way: with the first step and the belief it is possible.

I remember the seemingly infinite mound of steel, concrete and dust that covered lower Manhattan in late September 2001. The idea that that area would one day be clean and clear seemed impossible and yet, today if you visit, it actually seems sterile and sacred.  Those people did it, one piece of crap at a time.  Those people who stepped up and agreed to breathe in the dust, get filthy, risk personal injury to clean up the World Trade Center are heroes. They are the ones who got busy and stopped being discouraged.  

Their twins with determination and passion are rising in Japan as we speak.  They put on the haz-mat suit, wear the mask and go for it.  Many will risk their own good health for the health of their neighborhoods and country. They are the street sweepers on steroids and I feel nothing but admiration for them.  The insurmountable difficulty before them doesn't stop them.  One piece of crap at a time they will clean up their precious homeland and restore order.

I like to think of our local street sweeper as a brother to them, a friend with a common interest.  Today I'm grateful for the ordinary pleasure of seeing a street sweeper and knowing that all over the world people like him help to keep our world clean -- unsung heroes in the grandest way. Thank You!


  1. I am so grateful, too! There are so many jobs that are so necessary that so few people take the time to acknowledge. I am so glad that you did!

  2. I love the ordinary people who make the world a better place. Street sweepers are no exception. Thanks for noticing & sharing. I learn so much from you!