Monday, March 9, 2015

Our Common Life

"Belonging Together"

I shook my head in bewilderment as I read a story in this morning's paper about a sanitation worker who picks up trash in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. The other day this man showed up for work but he broke an ordinance by starting his trash pickup too early in the morning, disturbing  some of the neighbors who called 911 to complain. 

Incredibly, this man was actually arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail because he came to work too early and was too noisy; however, he was granted the privilege of serving his sentence on weekends so he could continue to pick up all the garbage in that neighborhood during the week. 

The story is such a perfect example of the abuse of wealth and privilege that has so infected this culture of entitlement.  When I read about what happened in that wealthy Georgia suburb, I thought to myself that instead of sending this guy to jail, the people of that neighborhood should be thanking him for doing such a thankless, grueling job of picking up all their trash. 

Years ago, when we were living back East, the sanitation workers went on strike. After more than a month of no trash pickup, our neighborhood started to look pretty shabby - the sights and smells of piles of garbage stacked everywhere were definitely affecting the quality of our lives and threatening our health.

On the day the sanitation workers ended their strike, it was such a joyful noise to hear those sounds of "taken for granted" garbage trucks moving along our street. It could have been 3 a.m. out there and that noise of those workers picking up all the garbage would have been a most welcome sound.

I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from a prayer I often recite before I go to sleep at night:

Watch over those, both night and day,
who work while others sleep,
and grant that we may never forget that 
our common life depends upon each other's toil.

All night long people have been at work so that when I pull up to the gas pump there will be fuel for my car, or when I go to the market there will be an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables--grown by farmers who may be on their way to work right now. On this Monday morning all sorts and types of people are at work - in hospitals, at restaurants, banks and offices, and driving the trash trucks that keep the neighborhood clean. We all depend upon the work that is being done, we couldn't thrive or even survive without it. 

We really do lead a common life that depends upon each other's toil - we all belong to one another.

I suggest that the folks in that Atlanta suburb who were disturbed because someone was working while they were sleeping might do well to ponder this thought. 



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