That’s ‘Rev. Dr. Garbage Man’ to you

Photo: John Marboe

Today’s must-listen/must-read story comes — not surprisingly — from StoryCorps on NPR this morning, which is the story of John Marboe, who picks up trash for a living.

That’s in addition to being a Lutheran pastor in St. Paul and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. He got his Ph.D. in 2011.

He took the trash-collecting job when he was unemployed and kept it.

This is the section of the story that should make everybody think again about how we look at people.

“Did I ever tell you the story about when I pulled up to an intersection and there was a mother and her little children and her littlest boy just started waving and I was waving,” he says. “And the mother looked up at me with this kind of concerned look and then grabbed her son. It was almost as though, ‘No, that’s not something you’re going to want to be.’ ”

“I think, to me, as your kid, I’m not embarrassed when people say like, ‘Oh, what does your dad do?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s a pastor, he’s a garbage man,’ ” Charlie says.

The reverend has also raised a pretty cool daughter.

Until about a year ago, Marboe wrote a blog about what he’s learned as a garbageman — Rev. Dr. Garbage Man.

This September 2013 post further expands on how we view people around us.

When I am hauling trash, people do not suspect that I am also a man of letters. They see me as someone who picks up their dog crap. They give me crap, literally. Recently I paused before turning into a St. Paul alley in order to let a couple walk their dog in front of me on the sidewalk. I waved in a friendly manner, and the man turned and approached me solicitously. I thought maybe he might be our customer wanting to thank me for outstanding service. But no, he wanted to give me his bag of dog do-do. “Sure,” I said, “toss it in.”

As I drove away from the couple with their dog’s poop, I was thinking that it might be the first time anyone had given me s—, literally.

Scholarship does not fit the image people have of us garbage-guys. Who knows? Maybe there are a whole bunch of us out there–undercover–pondering the meaning of words and ideas with the juice of rotting chicken smeared on our shirts. Like Wes, shown here after a 14 hour day, heat index at 105, pondering the meaning of life…

Related: St. Paul’s alleyway recycling debuts with glare ice and lots of yellow tags (Pioneer Press)