guerrilla goodness: the great day of garbage gratitude

January 23, 2012


What do you think the most thankless job in America is? I had my own idea but decided to take an informal poll among friends, family, and of course Facebook. It turns out, garbage collectors won by a landslide. I can’t say I was surprised. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, we create an additional one million tons of waste, which is a whopping 25% more that our collectors have to pick up and haul away.

These are people that are part of our lives, in our backyards or front sidewalk, taking away all our decay, the stuff we don’t want or no longer serves us. Yet even though these guys are in my living space every week, I really had no idea what they might look like or what their names were. I started to wonder so I woke up early one Friday morning and waited for them to roll down my alley.


I must have looked like a total loon waving my hands and carrying my camera but they stopped the truck and hopped out at my back gate. I introduced myself while Vejay, Lionel and Joe pulled off work gloves to shake my hand. We chatted for a moment and I told them I was interested in doing a kindness project for garbage collectors. I asked them what kind of kindness they thought was needed.

Joe leaned against the garbage can and said, “You know, we just need a little respect.”

“Yep, pretty sure everyone needs and deserves that, huh?” I replied.

“Yes, they do. Yes they do.” Joe said.

The kindness mission was sparked. What could be a more lovely and simple message of respect than saying, “I see you, I value your contribution to my community and I thank you.”?

Sometimes it is the smallest act of kindness that makes the greatest impact on a person. Meeting a basic human need may be all it takes to make a change. All I could imagine was Joe lifting can after can with notes of gratitude attached, throughout an entire neighborhood, maybe even a whole city.

So I asked the kids in my daughter’s kindergarten class if they would like to join me in writing thank you notes since they had just been learning about community helpers. The kids were stoked to take the mission on and the kindness started moving. Word traveled and seven more schools wanted in.


awesome thank you note from the kids at Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts

Here is the kindness mission, if you would like to join us:

1. Write a note of thanks to your garbage collector sometime from now until February 3rd.

2. You may want to include a gift card for coffee from your local coffee shop or gas station.

3. Attach it to your garbage can on pick up day for your collector to find.

4. Take a picture and send it to or upload it to our Guerrilla Goodness Flickr pool.

5. Tell us in the comments what city you are from so we can see how far our garbage gratitude is traveling. If you invited your school to join us, let us know the school too. Some schools are including their custodians in on the thank you note kindness too!

6. Hit the Facebook or Twitter button below to share or like…we all know Facebook and Twitter rule the world!

Can you imagine if there was a wave of gratitude across an entire nation? Garbage collectors may get kicked off the top of that most thankless job list. I imagine Joe would be just fine with that.

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13 Responses to “guerrilla goodness: the great day of garbage gratitude”

  1. Kristy Says:

    I absolutely LOVE this post! My daughter and I have been greeting our trash collectors for the past year to show our respect and thanks… and I just love your message! Thank you for what you do! 🙂

  2. So cool. Where I live (in Colombia) we have lots of people pick through the garbage before the collectors get here on the truck…so not sure how it would work in Barranquilla…but I do love to bring a cup of cold water to the street sweeper…who works in a suit that looks suitable for outer space – in 80-90 degree weather. (And that’s in winter). And he sweeps by hand. I am SO grateful for him (them) because this city is full of trash blowing around all the time. I’m VERY grateful for the tax money that goes to pay garbage collectors in the USA for the job they do! I took them for granted before moving to South America, but never will again.

  3. Beth Says:

    Ohmygosh, I love this. Love it. LOVE IT! Thank you.

  4. Lauren Says:

    Thanks for this inspiring post! I work for a non-profit after school program with 2nd & 3rd graders. I posed the question for them yesterday: “Who has a job where they don’t hear ‘Thank you’ often enough?” I asked them to think of the staff at their school – the custodian, lunch room staff, nurse, crossing guard, etc. They all agreed those people don’t hear “Thank you” enough. This afternoon we did our Thank You Project and they all made cards for the school staff. Their cards really touched my heart, and I know the staff who receive them will be warmed by them too. Thank you for reminding me (and giving me a great subject to discuss with my students) how important it is to say thank you to those who don’t hear it enough! I took a picture of their cards, but there’s no way to attach it.

  5. Adrianne Says:

    I needed some inspiration today. Thank you for this posting 🙂

  6. pathwriter Says:

    Reblogged this on pathwriter and commented:
    Unfortunately, I saw this post after the trash had been collected this week, but there’s always next week…

  7. […] love it when a mission is so simple and small that it holds it’s own kind of beauty and unexpected power, maybe it […]

  8. julie Says:

    I have done this for my ‘people’ haha, garbage, mail, and recycling guys at Thanksgiving. They seem appreciative.

  9. […] leaving flowers and gifts on doorsteps only to “ring and run.” Like leaving love notes thanking garbage men all across the country. Like anonymously writing encouraging notes in sidewalk chalk to ease the […]

  10. […] Know a stinky, dirty, undesireable job somebody does?  Thank them with a Christmas/Thank You card (and a tip or treat, perhaps?), like this: […]

  11. […] the great day of garbage gratitude- thanks Joe, Lionel and BJ! […]

  12. […] member of a Professional Organizer’s team.I recently read a blog post, written by Kindness Girl (also known as Patience Salgado) that piqued my interest. Patience took a poll to find out what the […]

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