Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Life Lessons, Courtesy of Deseret Industries

I saw “Yes Man” a couple weeks ago. It was a pretty funny movie with flashes of brilliance; the “Dead Carl” scene where the fly lands on Carl’s opened eye was gut busting. But most important was the message behind the movie. Saying “yes” to random opportunities, when presented, can open doors to neat experiences. I had one such experience the day after seeing the film.

I typically avoid service assignments. My excuses for not being available to help at the pasta factory, dairy plant, cannery, or DI are as numerous as the sands of the sea. But for some reason, when I got the call Saturday morning to help at Deseret Industries, I said, “Sure. I’ll be there.” I spent two and a half hours wearing the fashionable blue volunteer apron at the West Jordan DI and learned some interesting things, some of which were life-changing epiphanies. Instead of working out on the docks as presumed, I was inside the facility moving newly priced items to staging areas where they were sorted and moved to the sales floor.

1) The DI smells like the DI simply because it’s the DI. That combination of decaying flesh, dirt, and 1960s upholstery cannot be pinned on any one cause. It is the Alpha and the Omega of odors. There is no beginning and there is no end. It just “IS.” It always has been and always will be.

2) There is no Geppetto. There is no cobbler with tiny spectacles and a leather apron in a cedar-lined corner workshop that builds ornate wooden clocks and fixes broken furniture on the side. Don’t make the same mistake I’ve historically made when considering things to donate. If it is missing hardware or is “only slightly broken”, don’t freaking take it in. There is no Geppetto there that will just “throw a few nails in it” and have it magically ready for sale. If it is garbage to you then it is likely garbage to them. I was dumbfounded at how much money, equipment, time, and energy was wasted on throwing out lazy peoples’ trash. Deseret Industries =/= LANDFILL.

3) The complex process for evaluating items and assigning prices is a dude with a ponytail named Channon and a pricing gun. Random item 1A is dropped off at the dock. 1A is brought in by dock personnel to a spacious area inside the bay doors. Channon inspects 1A to see if it is sellable or trash. If trash, he takes it to one of the several highly expensive compactors. If sellable, Channon mulls it over in his head and says, “hmmm, skis…pretty good shape, bindings are there, $15 should do it.” Then he slaps on a tag and loads it onto a cart. That’s the entire process.

4) Deseret Industries employees are really nice, normal people. They are not Children of the Corn, recovering drug addicts, or circus folk. There are a few special needs people and they do fabulously. It was a pleasure to work among them. I learned things from Channon that I’ll never forget.

5) I need to put down the XBOX controller and get my ass on the treadmill…maybe mix in some free weights. Those 2.5 hours pwnt my soul.

My final lesson came courtesy of Channon himself. At one point I asked him if he’s seen some pretty awesome stuff come in through his staging area. He said there have been dressers with drawers full of jewelry, either forgotten or intentionally left. When antiques or heirlooms or electronics or oddball items that may be collectable or of high value come in, the DI employee is to take the item to a special area and a manager for closer inspection. Channon sees this as a true test of a person’s character. How easy would it be to slip that cameo broach into your pocket? Or the diamond tennis bracelet into your sock? Then Channon said, “It didn’t take me long to realize that everything in the world is junk. All this around me is old junk. Stuff you buy in stores is new junk. And the instant you buy new junk it becomes old junk. And eventually I’ll see it here.”

I think that is an awesome, character-building lesson. We work so hard and stress so much about acquiring stuff. Toys, clothes, jewelry, music, electronics, and furniture. But when it’s all said and done, it’s all just junk. None of it can come with us when we bite our respective bullets. What I CAN take with me is my knowledge, my memories, and my intelligence. I’m going to try and focus more on developing those things, instead of scoring the junk. After I get my home theater system, new pimp van, and Vespa of course.


The Barker Family said...

That is so great that you had the opportunity to serve. Sounds like you actually enjoyed yourself! Crazy how much we actually end up enjoying ourselves and/or learning such valuable lessons when we serve. In the end we always feel so good about ourselves. Makes me think that maybe service isn't so much to benefit those we serve? Thanks for sharing!

ZAC said...

I'm proud of you Tyler. You went to the DI. I think that's one service call I might want to skip as well for all the reasons you mentioned! And I'll admit that I like my home theatre system a lot.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved your last paragraph about stuff and always acquiring more stuff. When we moved my late grandma into a rest home, I remember foresting through her house looking for anything worth keeping and there was nothing but a few sentimental things. Then I thought to myself, "wow, her whole life is being packed up into 10 boxes and being sent to the D.I." It taught me a huge lesson. Great post, very sweet.