Neighbor’s Laugh Turns To Begging When He Realizes Teen’s Motives For Collecting Garbage


Picking Trash

She’d been seeing him for months now. He’d walk up the neighborhood with a convenience store cart, picking up garbage all over the street and taking it to God only knows where. 

She thought it odd at first, although it seemed like he knew what he was doing.

But she soon discovered his reason for picking trash, a heartbreaking revelation that left her in tears. When she decided to help him, it would be too late. 

The Last Thing On Her Mind 


But for Liv Haubert, stepping in to help this boy had been the last thing on her mind that week. She’d been going through her own problems, hoping to solve them before they devoured her whole. 

But curiosity had been burning through her since she saw the boy walk down the street.

Looking to quell this all-consuming need to know, she decided to do something that she rarely did. 

Hard Work And Determination


Liv had long believed that hard work and determination usually paid off.

A middle-aged woman struggling to care for her family, she decided to try her luck as a realtor, hoping to change her and her kids’ lives. 

But her chosen career was more challenging than she expected it to be. It was rife with numerous setbacks and financial challenges. But Liv refused to give up.

A New Listing 


One day, she was browsing through potential properties when she stumbled upon a two-story house in a local suburb near her neighborhood. 

The listing was new, hinting that the place had great potential.

For Liv, this meant a way to finally have her kids return to college while settling some of her outstanding bills. If only she knew what she was stepping into. 

A Life Changer 


The listing was going to be Liv’s big break. Her two sons, Danny and Henry, had already been home for three weeks, kicked out of their respective colleges because of tuition fees. 

Her utility bills were also overdue, and her house needed repairs, or it would crumble in the next rain storm.

Knowing she had everything riding on this one opportunity, she made plans to visit the property.

Going To The House 


Liv arrived at the house at the start of the following week. Since it was close to her home, she only drove for a few minutes, parking her Prius outside the building. 

The neighborhood was quiet, which was expected since it was still seven in the morning.

But as Liv hurried out of the car with her briefcase in tow, something caught her attention. 

The Boy 


Liv paused in place, watching a teenage boy walk past her car. Her breath had caught the moment he stepped into her peripheral view. 

Several muggers had recently accosted her town, and she thought she was about to become a statistic.

But he waved at her, his face solemn as he walked by. But that wasn’t what struck her as odd. 

Is He Without A Home?


The boy seemed lost in thought and withdrawn. He was pushing a convenience store cart brimming with garbage, and for a second, Liv concluded he might be homeless. 

She considered fishing into her glove box for change if she had any.

Buying him breakfast would mean a lot to him. But something interesting happened as she was reaching for the compartment.   

Objectivity Is Key


The boy moved away from her car, picking up trash all around. Liv watched in silence, wondering what was happening. 

She decided to look at everything objectively. The boy’s clothes, although worn, were clean.

He had a presentable haircut and seemed to have a rehearsed method for his task. All these facts made one thing clear. 

The Other Kids


The boy wasn’t homeless, at least not in the way Liv was used to seeing people without homes in her town. But this conclusion raised more questions than answers. 

Liv was still pondering them all when a man came out of one of the houses with two teenage boys.

They started laughing at the boy as he picked trash, pointing and calling him names. What was going on?

Help Him


Since Liv didn’t know what was happening, she decided to watch from the protection of her car.

She’d rarely been one to stick her nose in places it didn’t belong. 

But as she sat, watching the man and his sons ridicule the boy, it became clear that she was doing wrong. But it would be too late by the time she decided to help. 

Watching In Silence 


Liv watched as the boy picked trash around the neighborhood, ignoring the harsh words directed at him.

fter fifteen minutes of hard work, he disappeared beyond the corner, leaving Liv alone in her car. 

She stepped out and hurried into the house, eager to see if it would change her and her sons’ lives. But although the house was great, her day wouldn’t end the way she was expecting it to.  

Getting Familiar With It


Liv walked through the house, carefully taking everything in. As a realtor, she needed to ensure she was familiar with every facet of the home before bringing clients in. 

But her mind couldn’t stop thinking about the boy all through her time at the house.

Even worse, her heart had drenched itself in a cocktail of shame, regret, and guilt for not helping the boy. Was there any chance for her to redeem herself?



The hours counted as Liv pondered what to do to remedy the situation.

She should have stood up for that boy when she had the chance. 

Feeling a weight over her heart, she decided to call it a day and go home. She’d already detailed the entire house and only needed to upload a few pictures to her database before inviting a few clients.  

A Chance Presents Itself 


Liv locked the house and walked to her car. But as she was getting ready to leave, the boy appeared from the corner of her eye. 

He was surrounded by a group of teenagers hurling mockery after mockery at him.

A few disinterested parents watched everything unfold, most not caring enough to stop the onslaught while others laughed. Liv didn’t hesitate. 

Thank You


She stepped up to the boy, her chin high and shoulders squared. With a hand on his dirty cart, she turned toward the teenagers, glaring at them until they walked away, grumbling. 

The boy stared at her, his eyes glossy with stemmed tears. Yet not a drop fell on his cheeks.

He didn’t speak, only gave Liv a curt nod, and continued his task. If only she knew what she’d just gotten herself into. 

A Few Weeks In


The next few weeks followed in the same vein. Liv would arrive early to prepare the house for a showing and run into the boy picking trash. 

By now, she was sure he wasn’t homeless. But she still couldn’t understand why he was spending his early mornings cleaning the neighborhood instead of being in school or at home.

If only she knew he’d change her life forever. 

Unwavering Determination


With each sighting of the boy came the usual group of teenagers and parents barraging him with mean comments.

But with the constant ridicule, the boy showed unwavering determination, working with efficiency and zeal that amazed Liv. 

It would only be a matter of time before her curiosity got the best of her, and she decided to ask about him. But by then, it would be too late.   

Trying To Talk To Him


A spark of curiosity ignited within Liv, and with each passing day, she started getting captivated by this enigmatic boy.

She’d tried stopping him on several accounts, looking to speak to him. 

But each time she did this, he only stared at her as if he had somewhere he needed to be. He’d nod to her greetings, sometimes even smile, and continue picking trash. Things would make sense soon enough. 

Never Misses A Day


The weeks continued counting, and through rain, snow, or stormy weather, the boy would show up early in the morning without fail. 

Liv would bring him a sandwich and coffee, and as was his habit, he’d nod while receiving them.

He worked diligently every morning and evening, never missing a day. But all this would soon change. 

She’s Captivated 


Over the next seven months, while she struggled to sell the house, Liv never missed a day observing the boy’s unwavering dedication. 

She saw a kindred spirit who shared her drive and work ethic and would give anything to hear his story.

Slowly and slowly, she was breaking her rule of not poking her nose where it didn’t belong. But this would end in tears for her. 

He’s Like Me 


One morning, unable to resist any longer, Liv decided to try and strike up a conversation with the boy. So far, her every attempt had been met with his nods and slight smiles. She wouldn’t take that today. 

She noticed the depth of his determination and sensed that there was more to his story.

She felt a connection with him, recognizing the struggles he faced in a world that had often been unkind to them both.

She Needs To Talk To Him


With her sandwich and coffee in hand, Liv waited outside the house she was trying to sell, ready to confront the boy.

She suspected he harbored hidden secrets explaining why he always picked up trash early in the morning and late in the evening. 

She’d even rehearsed what she’d say when he came into view, “Hi, I’m Liv. I’ve been watching you work so hard every day. What’s your name?” But that would never happen. 

Waiting For Him


Over the past few months, her admiration for the boy had grown. He reminded her of her hard-working sons who’d never failed to make her proud. She hated how everyone treated him and wanted to know if she could do anything to help. 

But today, he didn’t show up as he always did.

The hour inched toward mid-morning without Liv hearing his cart moving down the street. Something was terribly wrong. 

Where Is He?


Liv didn’t know what to make of the situation. She opted to wait it out, hoping he’d show up the next day.

But when he didn’t, her concern got the best of her.

Alarmed, Liv embarked on a search to find him, starting with the foul neighbors around the neighborhood. She asked for the boy’s name, a needed step if the next phase of her plan was to work. It was only a short time before she got what she sought.

He’s A Good Kid 


One of the neighborhood’s residents, a sweet old lady named Jecinta, told her the boy’s name.

“He’s called Ethan,” she said in a low voice. “Did you know he struggles with mutism? Other people make fun of him, but he is a good kid. He always helps with my cats. But I haven’t seen him in a week now.” 

Liv thanked her and hurried to her car. She was now realizing that despite the poor treatment Ethan had received here, he’d really made a difference. Liv didn’t even know he struggled with mutism. She wouldn’t stop until she got to him. 

The Garbage Company 


The next place she visited was her town’s garbage company.

She wasn’t sure whether Ethan worked there but knew it was an excellent place to start. She approached the company’s office receptionist with worry etched on her face.

“I’m looking for a young man named Ethan,” she said. “He used to work around our neighborhood, picking up trash. I’m concerned because I haven’t seen him for a while.”

The Truth


The receptionist glanced at Liv sympathetically before motioning for her to wait.

A few minutes later, a supervisor emerged from the back office. He had a somber expression as he approached Liv.

“I’m sorry to inform you that Ethan is no longer with us,” he said gently. “He had been working with us to put himself through state university. But tragically, his sick mom passed away a week ago, forcing him to quit.”

Devastating News 


Liv’s heart sank as she absorbed the devastating news. She had never imagined the weight that Ethan had been carrying on his young shoulders.

The supervisor continued, “Ethan had been saving up for her treatment while also paying for his tuition, but despite his tireless efforts, it wasn’t enough. 

“He’s staying with a distant relative, trying to piece his life back together.” Tears welled up in Liv’s eyes. Determined to help him however she could, she asked the supervisor for Ethan’s contact information.

It’s Not Over Yet 


With a newfound purpose, Liv reached out to Ethan, introducing herself. She’d posted his story on Facebook, talking about his willpower and work ethic and why he worked so hard. People came in droves to offer condolences, some even donating cash for his education. 

Liv was there throughout this journey. She couldn’t hold back her tears when she and Ethan finally reunited.

To her, Ethan had become like a son. But unknown to her, he had good news that would change her life forever. It would all begin with an admission letter he’d just received from Harvard Law University.   

Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.