On my walk this morning I heard, then saw, a tin can rolling down the street. A man ran after it, scooped it up with his foot, kicked it in the air, caught it deftly and carried it back to where he was working.
His work station, an enormous trolley on the side of the road.
His work, going through other people’s garbage, looking for things to recycle.
I noticed the pile of empty pizza boxes and thought jeez, we eat a lot of pizza in Melville. Also, at least four of those are mine and maybe I should eat less.
But what I noticed more than anything was the care that went into the separating. And I have noticed this before. The recyclers are meticulous as they sort through the garbage, creating giant mounds of paper, cardboard and plastic, before putting it in their trolleys. If an object is not of value, it is placed neatly back into the bin.
Every recycler I saw today, and there were many, wore a mask. Most of the people who walked or jogged past them wore masks too. But not all. I am thinking that those who don’t wear masks probably don’t recycle either.
I am always in awe of the recyclers but today, I got really sad. It’s winter. These guys work in the dark and cold, carrying huge loads, dodging traffic, are probably hungry and thirsty too. I know many people offer food and a hot drink, and I love that and it’s kind; but not everybody does or is able to.
Also there’s no easy access to public bathrooms in our city. In a pandemic, these guys cannot wash their hands very easily. It must be scary for them.
The man who caught the tin can is Trust. That is his name. He told me he lives in Newtown, starts work at 3 am, makes between two or three hundred rand for the day’s work, and gets home after dark. I think home is near the recycling station in town, and may not be a home at all.
Trust was not picking up the tin can for the few cents he would get for it. He was picking it up because he doesn’t like to leave a mess behind.
He’s young and smart. He’s a diligent worker. He should be doing something else.
But there is nothing else.
And a mound of gratitude.