The sun has not yet risen when I arrive at work. Barely awake, my tea gripped so tightly you would think it the very means to live by, I stumble through the darkness, passing the same man sweeping up leaves and picking up garbage every morning. The first time I saw this man, I assumed he worked for the city—a maintenance man, perhaps, or a gardener? A few days later, I got the feeling he was a homeowner, someone wishing to keep his block clean and neat. More recently, however, I’ve come to a new conclusion: last week I took a closer look at my hard-working and mysterious friend, only to realize that he is the same man I often see pushing a shopping cart laden with belongings. I began to wonder what motivated him to rise long before the sun in order to clean the same block of street over and over. Could it be a sense of belonging? Maybe a random act of continual kindness? Perhaps he is a bored insomniac? Perhaps he is serving those in his community? Or maybe he is letting outsiders know that this neighborhood is being taken care of, is watched over?
I could ask this fellow early one morning, but I have yet to do so and am left only to speculate. I am not sure why my mysterious friend has chosen to clean the same block every morning for the past four months. I do not know how long he has been keeping this routine up, and I am not sure how long he will continue it. I do not know his motivation and I do not know his past. But I do know that I am not getting up before work to clean my neighborhood block. I know that I do not pace the streets picking up littler caught in bushes and drains before others have to see it. I have not even asked the name of this man I pass daily, let alone his motivation for making the world (or at least his neighborhood) a cleaner better, place.
Whatever the motivation of this kind sir, I think it safe to say he has learned what it means to be a neighbor, and he has caused me to pause and ask if I have learned the same… I think tomorrow, I’ll ask for his name.
Contributed by Lisby Rogers, a Young Adult Friend from Portland