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Lessons from Teddy the Trashcan Man

Teddy was the school’s trashcan man. He took out the trash and dumped it into the dumpster every evening without fail. Something that never failed to impress everyone was the way he went about it. He never let the trash reach the brim and often hummed a little tune as he swung the black bags over his shoulder. Best of all, he always had a ready smile for everyone.

Then one day, as Teddy was taking out the trash, he overheard a parent in his suit and tie talking to his son. “Better study hard, or you’re gonna become like him.” Just then, a little girl ran by and knocked into Teddy.

All the trash fell out and immediately, the little boy looked at his father and pulled his tie saying, “Daddy, do all boys who fail exams become trashcan men?”

The little girl felt bad and turned to Teddy to see his reaction. Teddy just smiled and looked at the girl, “It’s all right, don’t worry about it.” With that, Teddy picked up all the trash from the floor, hummed his tune, and walked over to the big bin, his smile never waning.

When he came back, the little girl was still there. Curious, she asked Teddy, “That man wasn’t very kind to say such things about you. But why weren’t you angry?”

Teddy gave a little smile and said, “Come over here and help me hold this small can.”

The little girl wrapped her fingers around the can and held it gingerly.

“Is it heavy?” asked Teddy.

“Not really, I can handle it.”

“But if you hold it for an hour, it’ll get heavier no?”

“I suppose...”

“And if you don’t empty the trash, and people keep dumping stuff in, it’ll get even heavier?”

“Uh huh...”

“Sweetheart, everyone’s got a little anger bin in them. We gotta keep emptying it now and then. The longer you hold on to it, no matter how small, it gets heavy at some point. Sometimes, we just need to check ourselves and let it go.”

There are lots of reasons to get angry with people every day and we all have a little anger bin inside us. Some of us have larger capacities, while others can’t handle much. The important thing is that we know what our limits are so that we don’t overreact to a situation and do something we regret later.

The real tragedy is often not when others don’t understand us. It’s when we don’t understand ourselves.

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