Once upon a garbage man: A tribute to telling stories and the first man to sweep me off my feet.


“I heard that your dad is a trash picker,” said the blond-haired twit with braces, the tone in her voice echoed with empathy.

“My dad wears a suit and a tie to work just like yours,” I spat back at the girl who I “thought” was my friend. Turns out she was a “frenemy’: a person who acts as your friend but also takes the time to strike as your very worst enemy.

We were supposed to be running a mile in gym class and though I usually was the first one to hit the track, I was contemplating running home. Away from having to admit to everyone once again that my dad was a garbage man.

I heard her relay the information across the track to another girl as I stared down at my gym shoes, embarrassment slapped all over my face by girls who aim to hurt.

“Don’t believe what she says,” said the other girl. “Her dad is just a guy who picks up our trash for a living.”

I still wish she had said that more quietly.

Those words stung me. Now, thinking back, the way I treated my father for choosing to be a garbage man must have stung him even more.

It is hard to admit, but when I was growing up, I was absolutely mortified by my father’s occupation. I shrunk low in my seat when it came time to talk about what my dad did for a living. I cringed at my father’s dirty hands, covered with calluses that were a sign of his hard work, whenever he tried to hold mine.

My last post was about how we can grow to be cowards of what other people think. It is a curse that follows us throughout elementary school, tags along like that annoying friend in middle school and gets us the worst in high school. It dominates who we will be friends with. It hinders us from our full potential. We fear the judgment that seemingly lurks at every corner. Threatening to grasp up the discerning looks and somber sighs from others. And although we may reach a point where the judgment of others no longer gets the best of us, where we are unapologetic about we are, we sometimes forget that judgment is a double-sided coin.

We need to learn a lesson that we may have forgotten to pay attention to in kindergarten.

Be nice.

Be nice to your parents. Be nice to strangers. Don’t just stare at someone’s shoes, imagine being in them. Then change your mind about that person. Stop assuming that you know a person because you have heard the rumors, the stories. Be the bigger person. Talk to that individual who seems like they are having a hard day. Reach out a hand. What is the harm?

My favorite quotation, one that I choose to live by, states simply, “There is not anyone you cannot love after hearing their story.” But, oh, how it must hurt when someone does not want to hear our story. When Someone Would Prefer To Judge Us and Move On Before They Even Take The Time To Learn Our Name. It is as if we come to Show-and-Tell Day at school but the teacher never acknowledges our raised hand. Our classmates never want call upon us to show. Or To Tell.

I like to picture a world where we never stop trading stories; as if they were Silly Bands or Pokemon cards. Where we take the time to stop in this busy life to simply hear someone else speak of passion and the greatest love that they have ever known.

And I would love for people to sit with my father and hear him read his story. One of Strength. Compassion. Sacrifice. Hard Work. Love. The Best Kind Of Story. A Favorite Bedtime Story.

It’s very simple. It’s that whole “Don’t judge a book by its cover” lesson. We need to not let the things we have heard about a person be what keeps us from listening to their own “once upon a time.”

And if those nasty “frenemies” of mine ever come across this post I want to make sure that there is a shout out to them. It took a while, but I embraced my father’s occupation after I got over myself and the harsh words of middle school girls. And what came out of it? I met the hardest working man that I will ever encounter in my life. I became closer with a guy who gave me the world on a platter, over and over, every single day. I got to hold the hand of a hero whose callused hands symbolize a role model that I can only hope to live up to one day.

No, my dad never wore a suit and tie to work. Yes, my dad was a garbage man for all of my childhood. No, I would not have had it any other way.

48 thoughts on “Once upon a garbage man: A tribute to telling stories and the first man to sweep me off my feet.

  1. Really sweet post. So funny how we are about things growing up isn’t it. But then adulthood brings home the realities of our parents and a glimpse of the road they’ve traveled.

    Such a wonderful gift your giving back to him through this post.

  2. i never realized how much my dad did for me until i grew up and started struggling. he did such a good job of making things easy for me, giving me everything i needed and wanted, that i had no idea how much he sacrificed to do it.

    thanks for the great story; reminds me of how much i appreciate that man.

    1. So very glad to help you with that. I, too, had difficulties realizing how much my father sacrificed until much later in life. Now I know not to take it for granted.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

    1. Thank you Lucy! It was originally published in the column that I wrote for my college paper but I decided it was appropriate to put it on here for Father’s Day.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  3. Great Tribute to your dad, a great man, a great father. You can never judge a book by its cover…a person must dive into the pages inbetween and discover the stories and the true being behind the person. I am so glad you understand and realize the love of a father and his passion, his hard work and dedication – regardless of whether he wears a tie, a uniform, or jeans and t-shirts.

    1. Thank you Sandy! He deserves every single tribute for certain. And I love the way you worded that, so very true that we must dive in and abandon first impressions and be willing to really truly get to know someone.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  4. I think every child goes through at least one phase in his/her life where he/she feels overwhelming embarrassment because of a parent. But the beautiful thing about it is what we learn from it as we grow older and mature. The more we experience life and grow into our own, we see our parents in such a different way and with so much more respect. This was a beautiful post, and if your dad has read it, I’m sure he was touched! Happy Father’s Day to him!

    1. Yup, it takes a lot of growing up but I am thankful that I have reached that point now.. makes me want to take back all the times I was ashamed or seemingly mortified. And thank you, he did adore it.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  5. Beautiful tribute to your father. You are most likely his biggest success and had he not had that job, he wouldn’t be the man he is to raise the woman you are.

    I dread the day that my children enter the painful world of middle school. Love your blog!

  6. Oh I love this post! What a wonderful man to raise such an incredible daughter. Cheers to your dad, and to always listening, learning and sharing our stories 🙂

    1. You are too sweet. Ha ha, I adore you! And I am so happy that you liked the email. It felt so good to write it as well, as if it were a much needed pouring out of my heart.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  7. This is beautiful.

    Over the weekend I had a situation where someone made a racial comment to me. That person didn’t know my story, and it wasn’t until after he sat down and got to know me when he felt like an asshole (for a lack of a better word).

    We judge others because sometimes we are unhappy with the way our lives are going and we want to know that there are other people out there who have it far worse than us. Because THAT makes us feel better about ourselves.

    The truth is, we need to stop judging others and learn to love and appreciate them. Everyone has a story to tell, and every story is beautiful. It’s about loving someone for everything they are.

    xoxo

    1. You just read my thoughts exactly.. I so agree with you, exactly what I sought to articulate in this post. And you know, I am very glad that guy sat down to get to know you after having made that comment. I am sure it opened his eyes. Hopefully for the better.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  8. What a great tribute – and so true! When we’re younger we don’t realize the things our parents do that we don’t like are actually sacrifices they’re making for us. There is so much honor in physical labor as a living – I hope this message of yours helped someone realize that.

  9. Well at least your father taught the difference between being a snobby bitch (like yur frenemy) and being a kind a real person (like yourself). Everything else is irrelevant my darling. Rock on.

  10. Thank you for sharing this.

    We could all use a little bit more “time to listen to others”.

    I’ve recently experienced myself how harsh people can be when judging somebody without even knowing their story.
    It really hurt me deep inside.

  11. That’s very sweet.
    It reminds me of when I worked at a fast food place early in college. There was this family, a dad and two daughters that came in all the time. The dad was a garbage man and the two daughters I guess worked with him? They were probably about 13 at the time.

    1. Thank you very much! That is a very young age to be working so hard.. I know the job is quite challenging but carries great benefits.

      Thank you for sharing!

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

    1. Agreed. I probably have 1,000 mean girl stories from my growing up days. And it frightens me to know it is much worse for children growing up now.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  12. I’m so glad I found your blog, too! I was sucked in by this post– my kids were shouting for more juice and cheerios and I was like, “Hold on! Mommy’s reading something.” Worrying about what other people think really can “hinder us from our full potential.” And you’re so right, being nice goes a long way. That photo of you and your dad makes my heart melt. Your relationship is something to be proud of.

  13. Hi Hannah,

    I didn’t realize you lived so close! Will check out some of your WTG articles. Love your thank you project! I send each client a handwritten note at the end of working together.

    Beautiful story about your dad on so many levels.

    We’ve created this phony work hierarchy, where we actually judge the worth and intelligence of a person based on his/her job titles. Let’s stop it and celebrate what’s wonderful about all of us!

    For example, I followed a man for a 1/2 a mile one day as he picked up trash cans. He was singing and dancing and twirling around as he picked up each can. His body strong and lean. I thought, “that’s someone I’d like to meet.”

    Glad you stumbled on my blog so I could stumble on yours. I see the fabulous Angie M. found you too!

    Enjoy, Giulietta

    1. You sound like someone I would adore life conversations with! I am the exact same way in thinking, lets drop the titles and prestige and just all hold hands and skip in circles, sound good? And I am so glad you are on boat with the TY notes. It is so key, and an art that I feel like is threatened with extinction. Good to know others are out there saving it as well.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  14. I remember being embarassed as a little girl that my dad traveled so much (he was in sales) and was hurt when he wasn’t at my ballet recital or band concert. I learned over the years he did it all for my family and that’s what really mattered.

    This post had me near tears, though! Your dad looks a kind, wonderful man. I’m so sorry the kids were mean to you; I don’t think I ever would have been appalled by another man’s profession, even as a kid.

  15. Calling this post “awesome” (even in its purist sense) wouldn’t quite capture what I’m trying to say. This really is moving. Great work, dom 🙂

    1. Yes, the whole column was.. Just cut it down and tweeked it a bit for the post. It was a Father’s Day tribute.

      Thank you. Hope all is well!

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  16. Great post as always. You’re so right, it was probably harder for your dad dealing with the stigma than actually doing the job everyday!

    And I actually got a little bit angry for you about the frenemy: I had a few of those when I was younger and they really irritated me. You don’t even know where you stand with them so you can’t even treat/avoid them accordingly.

    1. Ah, aint it the truth… As if you always have to be walking upon egg shells when in the presence of a frenemy.. I say we are better off just dumping those people.

      Cheers to real friends- like you Stephen!

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

    1. Well a special thank you to you for being a dad. Good fathers make the world go round. And thank you for such the generous rating, it really means the world to me.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

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