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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

    The Joys of Garbage Trucks

    Reverend Alex Kindred
    Alex Kindred is Pastor at First Christian Church and a volunteer chaplain with the Muscatine Police Department.

    Muscatine Living

     Of all the delights that can happen in the world, among my toddler daughter’s favorites is a visit from the garbage truck. Even when Margaret was very, very little, she loved waving to the truck as it arrived, and, waiting as patiently as a little girl can wait, waving again when the truck returned on the other side of the cul-de-sac. 
    “Look!” she would say enthusiastically, as soon as she was able to speak. I’m not sure exactly what about the garbage truck is so enjoyable, but when someone you love delights in something, you catch a bit of that enthusiasm as well. Now, when we hear the truck coming, we are both amped up and ready.
     This past Friday though, something different happened. The truck came, then returned the other way like it always does. Margaret waved, pointed, and smiled, like she almost always does. But, as the truck pulled away, her expression changed. “Sad,” she said. Her whole body drooped. I wasn’t prepared to feel sadness at the departure of a garbage truck. But again, when somebody you care about has an experience, you feel it too.
     One of the strange things about spending time with a kid is that you start to see the world through his or her eyes. Sometimes, I think we adults take it for granted that a lot of the good things in life come and go, almost as regularly as a garbage truck running through its weekly route. Our experiences teach us over and over again that the good things that come are temporary and fleeting. We are prepared for the things that we enjoy, but also for their departure. Things often are bittersweet, an ambiguous mix of joy and sadness. A lot of the time, this ambiguity leads us to talk ourselves out of feeling anything at all. Margaret hasn’t learned that lesson yet though. I think she’s onto something.
     One of my favorite writers is the philosopher Paul Ricœur, who had an idea that I’ve pondered for a long time. He believed that even as we grow up, become more sophisticated, and leave behind our childish ways, there’s always a part of us that yearns for a “second naivete,” a return to the immediacy with which we lived before society, school, church, and work taught us to put our experiences into ready-made boxes.
    I don’t know about you, but there’s a part of me that longs for simplicity, for feeling things fully, for the kind of community that kids can have on a playground where fun is the only agenda. I long for a world that delights in garbage trucks, and a world that’s honest enough to own the things that make us happy, sad, or any of the other million hues of emotion that so enrich life. And so, I’m doing my best to learn from Margaret, who is shaping up to be a great teacher. I’m choosing a bit of naivete, a bit of wonder, and my life is all the richer for it. Last but not least, a big thank you to our underappreciated friends in Public Works who have made at least one little girl very, very happy.

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