When my husband was collecting the Thanksgiving trash after the holiday, he worried about how he could easily stack the pumpkins we were disposing of so that the trash collectors wouldn’t have trouble picking them up. This event reminded me how much I loved the late Tim Russert, former NBC journalist and the host of Meet the Press. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim here in Oklahoma City just a year before he passed away, and received an autographed copy of his book, Big Russ & Me, for my own great dad. The book is about Tim’s lessons from his father, and one such lesson was on the etiquette of trash. Tim’s father worked for the Sanitation Department in Buffalo, New York, and Tim spent every school vacation, summer and winter alike, working with his father.
It wasn’t until working with his father that Tim realized why his dad was so meticulous when it came to throwing away the trash at home. His father always let the kitchen grease harden in a can before he threw it out because he knew what it felt like to pick up a bag and have the bottom drop out after hot kitchen grease had melted the bag. He also knew that some people threw their trash right into the can, without even bagging it, causing the cans to smell and leaving the odor of the trash on his skin and clothes. Other neighborhoods, like the Polish district in Buffalo, New York, wrapped their trash up neatly as if it were a gift. Before Tim started the job, Big Russ taught him how to wrap garbage. He wanted Tim to be considerate, and knew that if he got in the habit of thinking about the “other guy,” including the person who picked up their trash, life could be so much easier.
During this holiday season, filled with wasted food and pounds of crumpled wrapping paper, let’s all do what Tim Russert did: be considerate, and think about the other guy.