We were driving west on South Boulevard a couple of weeks ago, when a young man walking a bit uncertainly toward the crossing at Harlem caught our eye. Wearing braces on both lower legs, he bent over with a wobble and picked up a paper cup from the sidewalk. He wobbled a bit more as he took another few steps forward and picked up another discarded cup. He then made his way to a nearby trash receptacle and dropped in the cups.

As we waited for him to clear the cross walk before we drove across Harlem, our curiosity got the best of us – who was this guy with the physical handicap who was bothering to do what none of the dozens of other perfectly able bodied pedestrians around him deigned to bother with?

Turns out he’s simply interested in doing his small part to help the local environment.

“It’s just something I do. I care about keeping Oak Park clean,” says Oak Parker Joe Walsh. “I just get personal satisfaction. I’m doing something that helps make the world a better place.

Walsh, 30, who was born with cerebral palsy, says he also enjoys the opportunity to get out and exercise.

“It’s good exercise for me to bend over,” he says. Most people don’t comment, though the day we saw him, a man handed him a buck in appreciation. Nobody, he says, has ever said anything negative.

Walsh, by the way, is bilingual (Spanish) with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

We mention that for the benefit of any company looking for the sort of person with positive personal qualities and values that don’t show up on a résumé. After seven years working his way up to senior portfolio accounting analyst at a major bank, Walsh lost his job in 2007 when it was shipped to India. The past two years he’s had several part-time jobs, but is looking for full-time work in his field.

In the meantime, he’s pursuing a degree in library science, figuring that’s one service that won’t ever be outsourced by corporate bean counters.

He can be reached at walsjw@hotmail.com.

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