Friday, September 3, 2010

Is Work Just Work? Or Something Else?

I heard the most beautiful story in my car this morning. Do you ever listen to StoryCorps on Fridays? It's my favorite Friday feature on NPR's Morning Edition, and this one made me reach for the Kleenex. You can read the complete transcript here, or treat yourself with a click on Listen to the Story over at the transcript site, and hear Angelo and Eddie tell the story themselves in their fabulous New York accents.

If you're in a hurry, I'll share the gist. Angelo and Eddie were garbage men in Manhattan, partners in work for years and years. Angelo has retired, and they got together to talk about their work and Angelo's retirement.
Here's a couple of bits from their story:

"Everybody would just come out just to talk to you," Nieves, 55, said to Bruno when they visited a StoryCorps booth recently.

People along their route in Manhattan's West Village neighborhood would greet the two and offer them coffee or breakfast, Bruno said. And nuns on their route would kiss them.

"The younger guys would ask me, 'How did you get that?' It's just a little good morning, have a nice weekend. Hey, you look great today," Bruno said. "I could do 14 tons of garbage — I can't lift a baby carriage off a step and carry it down? Or hold someone's baby when they went to get their car?"

"When I first came on the job, there was one old timer ... I remember Gordy Flow his name was. One day, he stopped the truck. He tells me, 'Angelo, you look down this block first. See all the sidewalks are all crowded up with garbage?' So I think nothing of it. My father always told me to respect my elders. I get to the end of the block, and he stops me again. 'Get out of the truck, look back. Nice and clean right? People could walk on the sidewalk. Guys can make deliveries. Be proud of yourself,' " Bruno explained.

The story ends with Angelo's retelling of his last day of work, how the people in the neighborhoods cried, how he cried, and how all that crying made Eddie cry. Eddie says that after years of taking the same vacations and days off, and working side by side, they dearly miss each other.

Angelo answers, "I feel the same way, Eddie. I'll be honest with you — I miss it terribly. I'm like the little kid looking out the window now when I hear the truck. I think I could have done another 31 years."

Wouldn't you love to always feel this way about the work you spend your days doing? As if it's holy, a God given opportunity to make your corner of the world a better place. I guess that's exactly what work is, no matter whether we're cleaning up baby spit-up at home, crafting or writing or teaching or lawyering. Or collecting garbage on the streets of Manhattan.
I need to remember that.

That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:13

Have a wonder-full weekend, y'all!
And thanks again, thank you, thank you, for your kind birthday wishes! You all are so special to me! I'm sending you hugs and kisses!
Love, Becky
*Photo by StoryCorps


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I heard this too--and totally wept. I LOVED this story--and it spoke to me in the same way. Service is so much more than doing the bare minimum. It's an attitude! These two guys are excellent role models!

Faith Hope Cherrytea said...

what a FanTastiC story Becky !
thx much for sharing such a wonderful perspective on life..
i'll ruminate on that for quite some time i expect ~
blessings on your weekend too!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Of course, I missed your birthday, Rebecca. Too busy, was I, celebrating my own. :) It's always a weeklong endeavor, no? I do hope yours was splendid! Many happy returns to it, and thanks for sharing this blessed story with us. I love it!

Jean Wise said...

wow what great attitudes these guys have. I love the stories on NPR but missed this one. thanks for shairng and belated happy birthday!

Sharon said...

Thank you for a beautiful story that I would have otherwise missed. It lifted up the value of work and community and gratitude ... and much more! Thanks!

Mompriest said...

ahhh, I missed the story on NPR, but so glad you shared it here. Have a great weekend yourself.

LW said...

I think the garbage man is one of the most important people in the work force.
Just imagine living in a world with them…

My hat is off to those two guys…


Amy Sullivan said...


Thank you for sharing this story. It really makes me think about the kind of attitude I take to work daily. Ahhhem, I think it could use a little improvement.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

What a heart warming story!

Happy belated birthday!!!

Laura said...

Love your Labor Day saga, Becky.

I'm blessed to have that feeling about my job.

You had a birthday? HAPPY, HAPPY to you, even if it's belated.

lynnmosher said...

Aw, what a sweet male relationship! You don't hear too many of these. They should go into some kind of business together. Thanks so much for sharing this, Becky! I loved it! :D

Kat said...

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this. I think we all need reminders of this. What a difference we can all make just in doing small kindnesses. I love it. Thank you. It did make me weepy.
I'm having the hubby read this too. :)

Jenny said...

Can't write...there is a catch in my throat right now. You are right...This lovely tale is so Ecclesiasties(sp). Wonderful