Garbage In – Treasure Out

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Hi there, good to see you again.

The other day I ran across a newspaper article about an unorthodox funeral that occurred several years ago (September 19, 1998 to be exact).  The article was a very short blurb in a side column of human interest stories.

I am sure that many people probably shook their heads and laughed when they learned the details of the funeral, but I found it very refreshing… I would even say remarkable.

In fact, to go a step further I really admired the deceased for his request and the family for agreeing.

The Article

CLARKSTON, Mich. – Ervin Sievers’ living was hauling trash, and his dying wish was to have a garbage truck in his funeral procession. To relatives, it was the ultimate homage to the man who worked on garbage trucks since he was 17. Sievers was 45 when he died of brain cancer. This week, friends and relatives gathered inside a funeral home as a green trash truck – empty and polished – rolled into the lot, then pulled behind the hearse.

“I was a loader on the back of Erv’s truck,” the truck’s driver, Paul Cronkhite, said. “It’s not very glamorous. But he took a job that nobody likes, and he did it well (emphasis added). Co-workers describe Sievers as the company’s hardest worker.”

-  Orlando Sentinel September 19, 1998

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I was impressed.  We can learn a lot from Ervin Sievers.

Ervin had something that few people have.  He had a clear identity of who he was.

Now here’s the kicker… his identity was NOT that of being a garbage man.  We was a man who saw the value of his job and did it well.  His job happened to be garbage collecting and he was proud of his contribution.

How many people have what Ervin had?  Far too few.

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Excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way.

- Booker T. Washington

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Most people see the mundane or menial as not important or beneath them and avoid such things like the plague.

What’s even sadder is that many people carry it a step further and level a measure of distain or judgment toward the task… and the people.

This is so narrow and shallow.

By doing the menial things (and especially doing it well) says more about a person’s character than it does about the person.

What people don’t realize is that doing something well (especially the menial) has a mysterious transforming power.

The seemingly menial is elevated to a higher plain all because someone ascribes some dignity to a task that others deem irrelevant.

A simple act done honorably and with excellence somehow transforms that simple act into something sacred.

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True greatness consists in being great in little things.
- Charles Simmons

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Yes, Ervin Sievers drove a garbage truck.  But he was more than that.  Ervin was a teacher.

And we who have positions considered lofty by society’s standards have so very much to learn from this garbage man… if…

…If… we are willing to look up to receive from someone we consider to be below us.

Ciao, see you Thursday.

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Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.

George Halas

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2 comments

  1. Marjorie Sievers

    I am the wife of Ervin Sievers, or should I say, the widow. To me, he was , and still is, everything a man should be. Loving, caring, giving and gentle. He was a man who took children under his wing and raised them as his own. He did his job with dignity and honor. His customers loved him. His employers valued him as did his peers. His neighbors depended on him to plow their gardens, bale their hay and fix things for them. He gave his time and his love to all who needed him. Thank you for this article about him.

  2. Marjorie… I am so very pleased you responded. I want to honor honorable people.
    People in our day and time don’t seem to realize the power and beauty of a life well lived.
    Thank you once again.

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