I rode around on a trash truck yesterday. No, I’m not considering a change in career, I’m working for a waste disposal company in the recruiting department and I wanted to know what a day in the life of a driver would be like. So, I had to report to work at 5 AM, which meant I had to leave my apartment by 4 AM since I’m on the complete opposite side of Denver. Dragging my butt out of bed at 3:30 was a challenge I do not want to face on a daily basis.
I rode on a roll-off truck for the first part of my day. Our first pickup was at a business in downtown Denver. Aaron, the driver I was riding with, told me that we’d have to be quiet because we were technically in a residential area and we were not supposed to be there until after 7 AM. Right. Be quiet in a multi-ton trash truck while picking up a gigantic metal container? THAT was funny. We had to break the rules though, because to be downtown in a huge truck parked in such a manner that blocked all lanes of oncoming traffic, well, it was better that we were there before the hustle of downtown burst out of its sleeping cocoon.
On our way to the transfer station to dump the container I marveled at how strangely quiet everything did seem. It was still so dark outside. Nothing was really moving with the exception of our giant truck. I closed my eyes to listen to the hiss of the air-brakes and the groan with each change of gear. Everything was still so sleepy in my town nestled at the base of the Rockies. It was almost romantic. And then we arrived at the transfer station. For those of you who might not know, a transfer station is where the trash goes before it moves on to a landfill. The truck gets weighed as it comes into the transfer station, dumps all the trash out, and gets weighed on the way out so they’ll know how much trash was left behind. Tons of trash moves through transfer stations each and every day. I hate to say this, friends, but when it comes right down to it, we are a horribly wasteful and disgusting society. I saw it for myself yesterday. I smelled it, too.
When Aaron got out of the truck at the transfer station, I followed him. I watched as he manually opened the back. Water and an assortment of un-delicious goo came pouring out. If that wasn’t bad enough, about two seconds later, the smell hit me. I will never be able to explain what that smell might have been a combination of, but I’m pretty confident that if Bath and Body Works were to slap a label on it, it would be marketed simply as “Hell”. I learned quickly that the concept of “mouth breathing” isn’t nearly as repugnant as I once found it to be since breathing through my nose would singe what remained of my olfactory nerve.
Before I knew it I was standing in a thick layer of crap that people found disgusting enough to dispose of yesterday, so it had an extra day to marinate in its’ own disgustingness. It made me really sad. Garbage could use a strong dose of Prozac with an Abilify chaser. There it was – discarded. Limp. Smelling like death had already moved in. I needed to move away before I added my own layer of yuck. Fortunately, Aaron saw my color change and suggested that I move back into the cab. I did not put up an argument. Besides, speaking would force me to stop breathing through my mouth.
I climbed up the ridiculously high set of stairs to the safety above the sludge, trying to catch my breath without blowing chunks. As I pulled myself into the cab, I noticed a bright orange glare hitting a nearby building. It was so bright and fierce, it was almost as if the building was on fire. I quickly scanned the horizon from my perch above the trash and noticed the most magnificent sunrise that I had ever seen. I’m pretty sure that I released an audible “Whoa!” in slow motion, just like a kid might do on a particularly impressive Christmas morning.
Now, when I imagine God saying “Let There Be Light” this is what I imagine: A gigantic, bright ball appearing in the sky that is so breathtaking and wonderful. Illuminating everything for the very first time. Opening my eyes to the beauty that surrounds me. I closed my eyes and let the warm orange glow wash over me. I chuckled under my breath because as I was marveling in the beauty of my stunning sunrise, I was – in reality – completely surrounded by horribly disgusting trash.
And then it hit me. It doesn’t matter what I’m currently surrounded by. I have to trudge through it. Sometimes it will make me want to barf. Other days it will not seem so bad. I might even find a treasure or two amongst the trash that clutters up my life. But what I have to do is keep my eye on the prize. It’s okay to stare into the sun, especially when it has the capacity to be absolutely brilliant. There will always be trash. That will never change. But to adapt and grow from it – and to learn how to deal with the smell – that’s the lesson.
I know I have a light in me that is even brighter than the sun I saw yesterday morning. And what the heck. I’m going to take the leap.
I’m going to let it shine.