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Don't overlook the trash men

Published Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The best way to appreciate the men who regularly collect our garbage is to imagine what if they did not do their job.

We have a tragic example of this starting with the Gulf War in 1991. Those old enough might remember that during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, the U.S. and its allies imposed severe economic sanctions on Iraq.

A 1996 article in Peace and Freedom, the magazine of the Women's Intrnational League for Peace & Freedom, told of a special UNICEF report drafted by Canadian physician Eric Hoskins. He documented that because they were unable to purchase spare parts because of sanctions, only 18 of 152 garbage trucks were working in Iraq's three northern governates, with the whole country's solid waste collection and disposal system operating at less than 25 percent of pre-war capacity. 

Hoskins also observed disease-breeding solid waste piled up in residential neighborhoods.

With sanctions grinding garbage pickup to a halt and additionally preventing the Iraqis from buying chlorine to purify their water, bombing Iraq's electrical grid shut down water pumps and refrigeration of food and medicines--the combined reason why diseases such as typhoid, hepatitis, gastroenteritis and cholera were rife.

Some people might think that being a garbage man is a lowly career. Trying to think of a lowly part in the body, the appendix comes to mind. But the mysterious little organ is not so lowly to someone like me whose appendix ruptured. If asked before it happened what I thought were the most important parts of the body, I probably would have answered the brain or heart, but its rupturing won me new respect for my appendix. 

The greatest actors in the theater have the attitude that "there are no small parts." 

As Paul pointed out in his letter to the Romans, "For just as in a single human body there are many limbs and organs, all with different functions, so all of us form one body, serving individually as limbs and organs to one another." Therein lies our equality.

We need each other. What are a heart and brain without intestines to take away the toxins that would do them harm? Where would we be without the folks who reliably collect our garbage?

Next time you see the trash collectors on your street, give them a wave and a "thank you." They perform a critical job for our communities. 










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