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Garbage Free Zone

April 24, 2016

The other day I happened to be at home and while doing a few things in the kitchen I smelled something rotten. I didn’t know what it was and since this is not like a phone you can call and once it rings you know where the phone is, I had to rely on my nose to follow the smell and finally identify where it was coming from so that I can clean it out. Finally, after overworking my nose, I realized the trashcan in the kitchen was full and needed to be emptied. That is where the bad smell was coming from.

So I took the trash out and dumped it in the bigger bin we use as we wait for the garbage collectors to make their rounds in the hood. But even after taking the garbage out, the trashcan itself was still stinking and besides that, the surface I lifted it from in the kitchen was also stinking, though the garbage had already been removed. I had to clean both the trashcan and the surface it was originally placed on so that the smell can be completely eradicated.

You know, this incident got me thinking about a lot of things.  One of the things that was triggered in my mind is an excerpt I had read from Joel Osteen as follows…

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving on the inner lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. I mean, he was really friendly.

So I asked, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!” This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage truck.”

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.

Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, and wish them well, say a prayer for them and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.

Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so…love the people who treat you right. Forgive the ones who don’t. We’re not always responsible for everything that happens to us, but we are responsible for how we react to what happens. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!....

Let’s back up a bit. Did the author of the above passage say that we have (self) control, and that we might not be responsible for what happens to us but instead, how we react to what is happening to us is the main concern? Yes that is the truth. As Zig Ziglar said in one of his quotes, “it is not what happens to you that matters. It is how you react to what happens to you that makes all the difference”.

Unfortunately most of us walk around with major garbage in our hearts and minds. We let the garbage stink our lives and everything around us.  When someone is full of garbage, when they open their mouth to speak you will definitely know.  Instead of speaking words that build others, the garbage inside of that person stinks through speaking words that break them. Instead of applying love and understanding to all they interact with, they let the garbage inside of them to stink by allowing themselves to be led by hatred and strife.

The garbage inside can be anything, ranging from jealousy, envy, bitterness, non-forgiveness, grudges, etc. Carrying any or all these in our hearts will definitely cause our lives to stink like the garbage bin in my kitchen. And yes, sometimes the garbage may be so full that even after cleaning it up, we still find traces of it have remained, meaning extra effort needs to be taken in order to ensure that not even a drop is left that will cause the stink.

Going back to the cab driver referenced in the above passage, can you imagine what would have transpired if he too had decided to react negatively to the driver who was in the wrong? Since he is the one who had been wronged, he could have decided to use foul language and profanities to express his displeasure but instead of doing this, he just smiled.  He choose to do what the good book says in Proverbs that, A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire”.

I can bet you the other driver must have been left asking himself why he even behaved that bad in the first place. Maybe he even followed up this guy later to apologize because he must have come back to his senses and realized he was full of garbage.

I don’t know what you are going through right now or what you have taken other people through just because of the “garbage” inside of you. You may have let your frustrations show up and show off in the past but now that you know better, you can opt to never let your emotions control you again. Yes you may not have control over which driver will cut you off in traffic, but you do have control over your tongue and thoughts, meaning no matter how bad you feel, you can choose to smile and not ask the other driver a single question.

It might be folks at home who are driving you insane by the things they are doing, but guess what, you can choose to not let them get to you and instead be the bigger person who is willing to ensure peace prevails. Once again like the good book says, “kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim”.

The next time you find yourself in a “garbage” situation, take your time before you respond because even though every one of us has frustrating days, you can choose to frustrate your days instead.

Wishing you all a garbage free week.

PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 24th April, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".

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