The Sweeper

On the street where I live, the streets are always clean.   Every morning an old  man, who lives in a little unimposing house in a corner, gets up and sweeps the streets.  I call him “The Sweeper.” He’s not paid to sweep the streets.  He is an inhabitant of the street, yet every morning he sweeps the street for everyone.  He gently moves down rows and rows of houses with broom in hand sweeping away trash, leaves and whatever else is left on the street.   He asks not for recognition, he asks not for notice, he asks not for money.  He sweeps the streets because he wants to.  He sweeps the streets because he has a good heart.

It’s not easy to find a man like him in this modern day where no one wants to do anything for free.  Everything now must be bought, be exchanged, be in response to another good action.  It reminds me of what Thomas Hobbes wrote in the Leviathan about man being innately selfish.  The Sweeper, however, sweeps because he wants to. He is not selfish.

I have not talked to him, but early mornings around 6am when I am rushing out to run, I’d see him already sweeping.  From the looks of his age, he must be many years past retirement.  Perhaps a decade or more.  I assume he started sweeping to keep himself busy, as a form of exercise, but I could be mistaken.  One day, I shall have to park the car and have a chat with him.

I wonder what pushed him to start sweeping. I wonder what his life is like. I wonder what he thinks. I wonder what he was before we all know him as “The Sweeper.”  I wonder if he has any family.  From what I see, his only companions seem to be the dogs that wander around his house and watch out for him while he sweeps.  Some days, I’d see him sitting on the street in front of his house surrounded by the dogs.  They love him.  Dogs know who have a good heart.

I wonder if there ever was a day he wanted to give up and just not get out of bed.   Rain or shine, he
is always there.  He is like a reminder of times past.  A time when Bangkok was less cosmopolitan, less busy, less hectic, and more loving.
I am thankful that on this earth there are men like him.  He reminds us that sometimes life isn’t about always doing things in expectation of returns or compensation.  Life can be about giving.  It’s about doing what gives us pleasure.  He need not be boastful, yet his goodness shines out far and wide.

Thank you Sweeper for reminding us all.  I wish you a pleasant, healthy and good life.

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