Gratitude for Everyday Moments of Paradise

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines paradise as “any state or condition of great satisfaction, happiness or delight.”

“This water is paradise,” the man said, with a wide smile on his face, when I handed him two bottles of cold water. He was the one riding on the back of the garbage truck. He would jump down whenever the truck stopped at a house and lift and toss the bags, cans, and other trash into the truck’s huge mouth. When there was a lot of trash in front, the driver would help with the pickups. But the man riding on his back usually did the majority of the pickups.

Even though the temperature on that Saturday morning after Thanksgiving was in the mid-70s and there wasn’t much humidity, it was still hot enough for the man to work up a sweat as he labored. It made his face glow and he looked thirsty.

I had been out of town on the previous pickup day earlier in the week, so I had a week’s worth of accumulated trash—but I had forgotten to put my trashcan at the curb that day because the pickup schedule had changed due to the holiday. I ran out to check if the truck was on the right side of my house, or at the end. I was fortunate. As he climbed off the truck, I made eye contact as he lifted a large amount of trash at the house right past mine. 

“Will you pick up my trash on your way back around?” I mouthed. He shook his head and smiled “yes.”

A garbage truck with two men rolls through my neighborhood twice a week in Florida. I have a habit of giving the men who collect the garbage water bottles when I’m at home. I keep the water cold, especially in the summer months when the temperatures are regularly in the 90s and the humidity is oppressive at 90% or higher.

After quickly grabbing my trash and rolling the can out to curb, I could hear the truck’s brakes rumbling as it stopped at every house. It was still at the end of the street. I realized I had enough time to go in and get water for the guys. As the truck made its way around my block, I could see it approaching. Because of the trash cans and piles of trash, the stops were more prolonged. I waited near the curb. I waited at the curb. The sun beat down upon me. I started to sweat and get too hot.

Finally, the truck was back at my home. As he jumped from the back to grab my can and two garbage bags, I handed him the bottled water. He took the bottles with a smile and as he jumped back on the truck, he said, “This water is paradise.” 

That moment made me realize that even a small act was a big impact on him. His words of appreciation touched me deeply. It brought back memories of many times in my own life when others have done kindness for me. Someone opening a door as I exited the grocery store carrying three full bags; someone letting me merge into traffic on a busy thoroughfare; someone giving me a ticket to see a play; someone making homemade soup and sharing it with me; someone listening wholeheartedly as I expressed the pain of loss or the exultation of accomplishment; someone offering me a cool drink of water when I was thirsty.

I was filled with gratitude and the joy that comes in giving. In our brief exchange, the two of us had made a human connection. He responded to my need for empathy and care. I did the same. It was as if I saw him with my eyes and he with mine. We both saw the humanity in one another. 

I realized then that paradise can exist right here on earth in a single act of kindness, with a single connection between two people, in the most unlikely place, when each person sees the one in front of them as a fellow human being. 

What are the moments of paradise waiting for you?

This post was reprinted from Uneeda’s website, accelerate2success.com.

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