Sanitation workers have a thankless job. Day in and day out, garbage men and women make their rounds, collecting and disposing of what we throw out to the curb. They work long, physical days and often never meet the people they’re serving. It’s a messy job.
Brandon Olsen and Taylor Fritz are two such sanitation workers who work for Hometown Sanitation Services in Blue Earth, Minnesota.
One day along their route, they saw three little girls waving vigorously at them from the window. It put a smile on their faces as they continued working hard. They waved goodbye and continued along their route.
Finding Joy in Routine
The next week, the girls were there again — and then again the following week. Soon, Olsen and Fritz began looking forward to this part of their route because they knew the girls would be there every time.
One of them would even appear with binoculars, trying to get a closer look at the garbage collection. All three would wave wildly as Olsen and Fritz through their garbage backs into the back of the truck. On the occasional day where the men would arrive before the girls were at the window, they’d pause a little in their work and wait for them.
“It could warm anyone’s heart, seeing those girls wave,” said Fritz.
It was such a simple thing, but it made all the difference in the men’s day. Seeing the girls so happy when they pulled up in their big garbage truck was a gift. It was the best part of their job.
And running to the window to wave to the two garbage men continued to be one of the family’s favourite traditions. The friendship between the workers and the family grew, and it all started with just a wave from afar. Everyone looked forward to the weekly ritual.
A Shock for the Garbage Men
One Halloween, Olsen and Fritz made up little treat bags for the girls and dropped them off along their route. The girls’ parents, Aaron and Angie, were touched by these men going above and beyond their job. The girls wrote thank you cards and drew pictures for their favourite garbage men. Olsen and Fritz were delighted. They keep them handy to remind themselves how much they’re appreciated.
There was also a note from the girls’ parents, though, and this one made the smiles disappear from the men’s faces. The note read, in part: “We may miss you some Thursdays upcoming; our 3-year-old girl was diagnosed with cancer and has chemo on Thursdays.”
The girl who grabbed the binoculars each week to get a better view is Rose. At just three years old, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer. The cancer had spread to her lungs, and Rose would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She and her family would now spend much of their time at the hospital.
Rose so loved seeing the garbage men each week, and a special bond had formed between them and Rose’s family. Angie didn’t want the men to think the girls had just lost interest. She felt the need to explain why they wouldn’t be at the window on Thursdays anymore for some time.
Olsen and Fritz were gutted. They had had no idea what the family was going through. “I have three kids of my own. I could never imagine it,” Olsen said.
A Small Gesture With a Big Impact
They wanted to do something for the family, but what? As Hometown Sanitation Services workers, they were entitled to free garbage pickup at their own homes.
The men approached their boss and said they wanted to give their benefit to Rose’s family. And so Hometown Sanitation Services sent Aaron and Angie a letter informing them that they would be receiving free garbage pickup, as a small gesture to make things easier for them in the upcoming year.
“I started crying,” Angie said. “It was only a few weeks out from the diagnosis. Sometimes it’s hard to be positive, but little things like what Hometown did are helping us limp along.”
“It really brightened our day…just that they cared,” said Aaron.
The men kept the family — and the girls’ drawings — close to their hearts. They missed the girls and thought of them often. So a couple months later, they brought the girls presents for Christmas. “We miss them when they’re gone, but we make up for it when they’re back,” said Olsen.
A gesture as simple as a wave, an act of kindness to ease someone else’s burden. It’s the little things in life that make all the difference. And you never know just how far one act of kindness will go.
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