Small Efforts Can Make a Big Difference

A simple hello and a wave.

Now that summer has arrived, I am able to spend more time with my daughters.  My wife has been telling me how every Tuesday, when the garbage and recycling is being picked up, the girls run over to the window to watch.  Recently, the guys that pick up the garbage (From Sierra Disposal) have been making an extra effort to wave and say hi to the girls in the window.

Today, we were on the back patio just about to eat lunch when we heard the brakes from the “Gar Kuck” (this is LilWejr-ese for Garbage Truck) and the girls bolted to the front window.  Although I missed their screams of excitement, I did manage to grab my phone in time to catch the last half of the scene (sorry about my talk-to-the-kids-voice).

These guys (the one on the left in particular) could drive on and do their job as they have been directed to do.  Instead they take the 45 seconds to do their job AND make a small effort to make a big difference to my daughters.  Why do they do this?  I am not sure but I would assume that they want to make my daughters smile; in addition, the feeling they get from the waves and smiles from the girls probably brightens their day too.

As parents, educators, and community members, how often do we walk right past people to do the job we have been told to do.  How often do we do the job AND brighten another person’s day with a hello and a smile.

I do not know these gentleman, but I do know that my kids get so excited to see the “Gar Kuck” every Tuesday.  It is the small efforts of these guys that make a big difference to our family.

To these Sierra Waste employees: thank you for doing what you do every day – and thank you for demonstrating and teaching how easy it is to make people smile.

Thanks to Johnny Bevacqua for relating this to the book “The Fred Factor“.  These guys are definitely “Freds”.

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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of Shortreed Elementary School (K-5) in Aldergove, BC, Canada. Passionate about instruction, strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.


  1. Thanks Chris. Very good point made about the “little things’ we can all do that make a huge difference in the lives of the recipients. You story reminds me of when my kids were young and coming home every day with stories about “Beardie”. The man was a legend as far as my kids were concerned and I assumed he must have been a fellow teacher. He was more significant than that – he was the bus driver and he got the kids primed for a great day at school and sent them home excited just by his enthusiasm and positive spirit. Love the post.

  2. Hey Tom – thanks for commenting. Love the story of the bus driver… such a key role with our kids. I could not believe how excited the girls were to see the Gar Kuck… made my day and taught me a lot!

  3. My kids go nuts when the garbage truck stops by. Not quite as exciting as compost, but exciting nonetheless.

  4. Awe the girls are so cute Chris!! My kids used to love the garbage truck too. I remember one day the garbage guy even let Jake sit in his seat for a minute, which totally made Jake’s day, of course!! You are right, the little things like a smile, a wave, or a friendly comment can make such a big difference. That smile can make someone’s whole day sometimes! Do you remember “Mr. Mean”, our custodian from Coquihalla? Or are you too young? lol He jokingly called himself Mr. Mean but he was exactly the opposite. He used to tease us and smile and laugh with us; he just took the time to do those little things that made kids feel special. My kids had a new custodian in their school this past year and he is the nicest guy, always cheerful and smiling; it was so nice when he happily helped me when I had to throw out a bunch of milk from our school milk program, instead of grumbling about it! It makes such a difference in the whole atmosphere at the school. I commented to him that I appreciate how nice and cheerful he is, and he said he’s heard that from a lot of people there and to him it’s just second nature. As educators or anyone who works with people, especially kids, it is a good reminder that being cheerful and smiling makes a big difference, and it sets a great tone when we take that extra time to smile, wave, say something nice, or to really listen for a few extra minutes:) Ugh this is a bit ramble-y, I’m just heading out the door, but seeing your girls and the friendly garbage guys made me smile:)

  5. This must be universal as my girls were always excited to see these trucks in action.

    Small efforts that acknowledge the other goes a long way indeed. 🙂

  6. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the big challenges we face that seem to require big solutions. What a great reminder that small actions can have a huge impact.

  7. Chris,

    This is so cute! Your girls are so special. Don’t you just love this age?

    We had a similar experience when a tow truck came this morning to tow away our truck that was in need of some repairs. The kids stopped everything (breakfast) and ran to the window when they heard it in our driveway. Of course, there was no stopping them. They were beside themselves with excitement. Oatmeal would have to wait.

    We definitely could take a lesson from our kids about really taking in the smallest things around us, appreciating and not taking this little things for granted. It’s so nice that these men took the time to make your girls smile. I’m sure they get as much out of it as your daughters do though! 🙂

    I hope you enjoy the added family time this summer,


  8. Lol! I thought my kids were the only ones who go nuts for the garbage truck. They go nuts for the smile, waves, and the lifting of the garbage into the truck. Our guys are cut from the same cloth. One of my son’s favorite toys is his garbage truck. I still remember him opening the present on his 2nd birthday and exclaiming, “Mommy, Daddy, just like the one that comes to our house. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”. I am sure he wouldn’t be as excited if the gentlemen who collect our garbage just did their job & didn’t take a few seconds out of their day to enrich the day of a child. It really is relationships cemented by the little things that make
    positive differences in people’s lives.

    Thank you for the post!


  9. That was sweet, “See you next week, girls!” 🙂

    Like many little things, this regular Tues. exchange probably goes a long way all in itself for your girls learning about relationships and confidence in their community! That you support their excitement and this interaction models a lot too.

  10. Thanks for reminding us that each individual is important and that our encounters are always meaningful.

  11. It’s the little things that remind us that the world isn’t all bad. The garbage men remind me of the book, “The Fred Factor”. They’re Fred! Thanks for a great post.

  12. You’ve made me smile, thinking about how I crushed on my own ‘garbage man’ when I was really little. I have distinct memories of being thrilled when he would wave back at me as I hung over the couch in our second-story bay window. I feel a kind of nostalgia for that kind of happy memory – the same kinds of feelings I get if I see Mr. Dressup or Mr. Roger’s or Sesame Street. Safety. Security. Comfort. Routine. Belonging. Connection. Interaction. Kindness. Love.

    Two girls in my current secondary school wear gorgeous hijabi and I went out of my way to compliment them (“I love your hijab! They’re such beautiful colours!”). I did this on purpose because I suspected that it would make them feel really glad and proud and happy. The next time I saw them they were all excited “You work here?!? We didn’t know if we would see you again!” And every time I see them now they give me waves with the HUGEST smiles! 🙂

    The research I’m reading points to student belonging as the most significant indicator of success. Most of us probably know that performing acts for kindness gets our happy hormones going. My personal area of interest is around how to model building belonging with teachers (including TTOCs!) in order for them to better embody building community and belonging with students 🙂 I’m slowly building up my toolbox of ways to help build this culture of belonging.

    Smiles in the hall, genuine compliments, follow-ups, finding reasons to celebrate each other… I actually think I learned a lot about how to live this way from my mom, who is a retired kindergarten teacher. She’s always been completely ‘present’ with my brother and I, and now I look back and realize how lucky I was to have her model how to ‘be’ with children and teens – heck, how to ‘be’ with people, period. The little things absolutely, undoubtedly make a difference.

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