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JULY 5, 2010

Interdependence Day

Trash strewn on grass at Edgewater ParkIf I needed another reason to dislike the Fourth of July holiday besides that it makes my neighborhood sound like downtown Baghdad during the shock and awe campaign, here it is. Edgewater Park, visited by thousands of independence-loving Americans on the 4th, on the 5th is littered with trash they left behind.

I was pretty discouraged as I ran around the track until I saw a group of five park workers filling plastic bags with junk and tossing them onto a truck. As I ran by I shouted "Thank you!" A couple looked up with surprised smiles. I suspect they may have done their jobs with a bit more enthusiasm, knowing that someone noticed.

I know that they are paid to do the work—in fact might be making time-and-a-half on a legal holiday—but that's OK. I'm still happy that they are picking up the trash and want them to know that I appreciate their efforts.

Think about it: our society functions only to the degree that everyone does their job reasonably well. We all have stories of incompetent, lazy and arrogant workers who made our day miserable. Why not encourage those who do their jobs well?

Just say "thanks"

I'm suggesting a new holiday: July 5th, Interdependence Day. On this day at least, make a point of saying thanks to the cashier who rings up your groceries, the cop who's directing traffic, the bank teller who cashes your check, anyone and everyone who's just doing their job.

We all need a little pat on the back from time to time. It's even more important for those doing unglamorous, mundane jobs like picking up trash. It's also a way to acknowledge that we're all in this together and need each other to get through the day.

In my own work, I sometimes—probably not often enough—thank my students at the end of a particularly lively class. I want them to know that I appreciate their attention and effort. They don't have to do anything. You can argue that they are the ones who benefit the most, but still it makes my job much easier and more enjoyable when they do their job well.

Say thanks. It doesn't cost you a thing, and may pay benefits to all of us.

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