The Unlikeliest Hero
By Amanda McDanel –
Tuesdays and Fridays are highly anticipated days at our house. Around 8:30 a.m. we have a special visitor who rolls in to delighted squeals and shrieks that he doesn’t get to hear. “Mr. Ryland” is probably one of the hardest working underappreciated employees in the town of Kill Devil Hills, and to my two-year-old, he is the highlight of the week.
See, Mr. Ryland has a very important job. He drives the “trash truck” as we call it and his job is to “pick it up and DUMP it OUT!” He always does it with extreme care, offers a friendly wave and a toot of his horn to the overjoyed munchkin hopping up and down in the window.
Recently his truck broke down right outside our driveway. My daughter and I walked out to see if he needed any help and to introduce ourselves. Ryland told me he has been with the town for almost 27 years. He covers five miles of area a day in his truck during an eight to nine hour shift. Some mornings he’s up before the sun, starting at 5:30 a.m. to ensure our beaches stay clean. As my daughter shook his hand, I couldn’t tell if she was more taken with his truck or his warm, welcoming smile.
I asked Ryland if we could bring him a bottle of water and a snack but he humbly dismissed us, saying that a few people bring him an occasional bottle of water on his route. I blushed with embarrassment. I had lived on his route for many years and benefited from not only his services, but also his kindness and I had never paused to express my gratitude. Sometimes life provides you with lessons in the least obvious ways and it is up to you to learn from them.
My daughter and I went inside and put together a snack and a drink for Ryland. As we walked back out, I asked her to give him the bottle of water and say thank you. She marched right up to him, handed him the bottle and said, “Thank you for dumping it out.” For a two-year-old, I thought that was pretty good.
For a thirty-something, it gave me perspective. How many people in your life do services for you that often go unnoticed or underappreciated? Maybe a bank teller, housecleaner or firefighter? Police officer, postal worker or pastor? Recycling truck drivers? Receptionist or realtor? We all have an innate need to be appreciated.
So in this time of thankfulness and giving, take a moment to tell those around you how much you appreciate them. It can be as simple as a thank you note, a fresh flower, a hug or a homebaked treat. You may only be one person to the world, but you may also be the world to one person.
And Ryland—I’ve got a bottle of water and plate of cookies waiting for you anytime. The town of Kill Devil Hills is lucky to have you. So am I.