Details matter – especially to Bob.
Bob is a fictitious name I’ll assign to a man I met who was sweeping an alleyway in Boulder, Colorado this week.
If you’ve walked the streets of Boulder you’ll likely be struck by the cleanliness of the town. While the city and residents play a role, Boulder is also home to Bob, a man who voluntarily sweeps the alleyways of the city. Maybe a portion of his drive to keep Boulder clean comes from his urge to keep his town clean. But considering Bob sleeps in a different place around town each night, his sweeping is more likely his paying it forward to the town for allowing a homeless man keep his place under the stars.
Pulling dumpsters away from the building, Bob focuses on discarded cigarette butts and small pieces of paper tightly tucked into the tight spaces.
“Details matter,” he said. “This helps reduce the amount of garbage running into the sewers by approximately 60%.”
Reaching down, he places a black dustpan in the pathway of his broom and sweeps the bounty into the business end. With his back to me, he dumps the contents into the four-wheeled commercial dumpster.
“Gotta stay on top of this,” he said.
I remark I’ve never seen anyone sweep behind a dumpster.
“I learned long ago to do it right first,” he said. “I call it ‘dumbtifying’.”
The confused look on my face must’ve led him to explain.
“If you do it right – the best you can – the first time, things tend to work out better, “ he said. “Took me a good while to figure that one out.”
Looking over Bob’s shoulder I see other dumpsters along the wall — the grounds beneath each freshly swept. Bob’s hard work probably goes unnoticed to passersby – looking towards the unpleasant is not something people like to do. But if they’d look, they’d see something remarkable.
Bob’s lesson is an interesting one to me. Here is a man focused on taking care of his world – the one he literally sleeps beneath the stars each night – and using the tools at his disposal, makes it better. While others in the community might be busy paying their taxes, racing back and forth to work, or volunteering with a local organization, Bob is doing what he can do – pushing a broom. And while to many the act of pushing a broom may seem basic and humble, the results of Bob’s work are visible for all to see and enjoy. Bob wants to contribute –to make a difference to the world around him.
Bending over, Bob double-checks his work. Leaning against the dumpster, he shifts his weight and pushes it back against the brick wall.
Bob takes deep, cleansing breath – surveying his work. Standing with his broom in his right hand and dustpan in his left, he pauses. Over time he’s probably moved mountains of trash for Boulder.
But what Bob proves each day in his community, details matter – even the ones you’ll never see.