Recently, my mother became ill, and I cared for her at home for a number of days before she passed away. Hospice services were provided by Medicaid and included a hospital bed, commode, large tray table on wheels and a chair designed for someone to sit in while being bathed.

After her death, I called the supply company to come pick up the items, and was surprised to find that all they would take back was the hospital bed frame. I was expected to deal with the rest of the equipment.

First of all, the waste is absolutely staggering. I understand not reusing a commode, but for them to discard a brand-new mattress, tray table and bathing chair, all funded by taxpayers, is unconscionable. Imagine if hospitals or hotels did that! They’d be out of business almost overnight.

Second, my mother lived in a small apartment in the middle of New York, and there is no easy way to dispose of large items. Clearing out the barely used equipment created significant hassle and cost money.

In a sad way, it reminded me of the times when I’ve had construction work done at my home. Inevitably, the crew leaves behind piles of dirt, wood or debris for me to take care of, and I always feel as if I’m picking up after a teenager. When I had a shed constructed in my backyard not long ago, the builder had to cut a number of branches from a nearby tree to make room. They were left in a large pile in the middle of the yard, presumably because he felt it wasn’t his responsibility to chop them up and throw them away. To the letter of the law, he was probably right. But in the spirit of the law, he shouldn’t have nonchalantly created a mess for someone else to clean up.

In the past, Pool & Spa News has published articles about recycling building materials as well as making sure a job site is in exactly the same condition when you leave as when you arrived. While I still strongly embrace these practices as good business, over time I have come to see the idea of cleaning up your mess in a larger context. Leaving a job site the same, or better, than when you found it can be a metaphor for other things.

In a sales or service interaction, making sure the customer is happier at the end of the relationship than when it began is a truly worthwhile goal. In dealing with staff and colleagues, every exchange will have a more positive outcome if you strive to make them feel appreciated and understood.

And, finally, there are the actual pools and spas. Whether it’s retail, service or construction, continuously leaving behind a great product, beautifully installed by friendly professionals, will make our entire industry shine.