Leader to Leader, Leadership, Ministry

Three Things My Garbage Man Taught Me About Leadership

August 22, 2016 | Posted by Tom Eggebrecht

There’s a little boy in our neighborhood named Mateo. Mateo loves the garbage truck. Twice a week, when the garbage men come, Mateo runs outside and waves at them. When Mateo runs outside to wave to the garbage men, they always wave back and salute.

One day last week Mateo’s mom had a devastating day. The daughter of her close friend was killed in a car accident. When she came home from one of the most emotionally draining days of her life, she found a package for Mateo on her front porch. It was beautifully wrapped. On the package was a gift tag that read, “From Victor, Your Trash Man.” Mateo opened the gift and it was a Tonka garbage truck. When he opened the gift, Mateo smiled a smile as big as his face. It’s a moment and a gesture he will never forget. Nor will his mother.

She said, “It’s in the small corners of the world where you find amazing grace, comfort, and kindness. Thank you, Victor, for making a difference and spreading love. I pray your kind gesture inspires others to go out and be amazing and make a difference in another person’s life as it has certainly inspired me and restored a piece of my broken heart.”

Here’s what the garbage man taught me:

  1. Acknowledge people. Who are the people waving to you, so to speak, from a distance? Our congregation has a number of widows who spend every week almost entirely by themselves. The one day of the week when they have contact with other people is on Sunday at church. It’s also the only day of the week they receive the benefit of human touch. You can almost see them “waving from a distance” trying to get my attention, and the attention of others. I see to it that they are hugged and have sufficient time in conversation with myself and other members.
  2. Focus on the small corners. As leaders we far too often focus on the Big Picture. Sometimes attention to detail allows people to see grace, comfort and kindness in everyday life. I try to make it a habit to write handwritten notes to people that I notice going the extra mile or making a difference in our church. This week I’m going to write notes to people whom I notice are in church every single Sunday, and every holiday, without fail. I’m also going to write notes to our congregation’s most faithful tithers.
  3. Gifts make a difference. It was fun for me this past Christmas to acknowledge my love and appreciation for my co-workers with gifts I selected just for them. As a pastor I am privileged to be the conduit through which God gives out His greatest gifts of Word and Sacrament. This year I’m trying to pay better attention to those under my care who need an extra measure of God’s grace and peace. Then I will be sure to give them God’s good gifts in the most personalized way I can.

I pray that the kind gesture of a garbage man inspires you to “go out and be amazing and make a difference in another person’s life.”

Tom Eggebrecht
Tom Eggebrecht is Senior Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Florida. He is an active blogger, bicyclist, and music lover who enjoys encouraging people to pursue their passion and chase their dreams. Amongst the greatest joys in his life is the blessing of his wife, Tammy, and their two adult children, Ashlyn and Benjamin.