An Unsung Hero in Everyday Life

unsung hero

Most people wouldn’t give him a second look. But when he was killed in a car accident, the amount of love and support that was poured out for him surprised me. Recently, a colleague of mine was knocked down by a drunk driver while on his rounds collecting trash.

I worked with a waste management company and knew Hamka Su’ud only on a hi-bye basis. He was one of our garbage collectors—the kind that hung on the back of a garbage truck, going from house to house emptying their trash cans.

We don’t often think about our garbage collectors. They are people who work in the background of our lives. They provide an important service, but we are not normally that aware of them.

But when news spread around the office that Hamka had been killed in the line of duty, there was such an outpouring of support that I did not expect.

Over the next few weeks, I was surprised to see the impact that this simple man had on the people around him.

  • A supervisor wrote a tribute to Hamka and posted it on the company bulletin. Hamka was praised as a staff that set a great example of what a professional should be.
  • In fact, Hamka had been receiving many awards throughout his 15 years with the company. This was truly a testament to his sense of ownership and dedication to his job, even though many would think this work would be far beneath them.
  • He was also a good friend and leader in this team of three. They looked to him like a brother.
  • Sometime later, my neighbor found out where I worked. To my surprise, she started telling me how sad she was about Hamka. My neighbor had actually given Hamka and his team some Chinese New Year goodies because she appreciated that they were always friendly to the residents and diligent in their work. She was shocked at the news of his death because he had been killed on the same day.
  • Hamka had such a good relationship with the neighborhood that the residents got together to help his family. They collected substantial money to help his surviving wife and four children tide over the difficult period because Hamka was the primary breadwinner.

Seeing all this, I was struck by the impact that a simple man could have. Hamka had genuinely touched the lives of those around him, even though some of them didn’t know him very well.

Although he lived a humble life, working at a job that most people despise, his attitude to life is an example to us all. He did his job honestly, diligently, and with good cheer. He was friendly to everyone; in return, many loved and appreciated him.

This is such a stark contrast to the many corporate suits I see sitting in their comfortable offices, murmuring, grumbling, and scheming. While they may enjoy wealth and status, how happy are they, really? How will God judge us in the end? Are we measured by the “trophies” we have collected or the lives we have impacted?

I realized that all our attitudes, words, and actions affect the people around us, even though we might think it is insignificant. The kind of effect that we have depends on the person that we are.

As Hamka has shown, being a person with good qualities will positively affect others: A neighbor who befriended her garbage collector, a colleague who loyally served in willingness and humility, extending passion beyond just duty, and a neighborhood who appreciates and empathizes with what may so easily be taken for granted. What a beautiful display of humanity at its best.

I feel that Hamka was a true hero. He may be unsung in this side of life, but I am sure his good works are recorded and rewarded where he is now.

Growing up, we often hear, “Study hard because you don’t want to end up being a garbage collector.” While we appreciate our parents’ good intentions in these cautions, perhaps a hero can be bred in each person in any vocation with consistent integrity and goodwill.

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