The other day while surfing channels I chanced upon a news story that made me stop. A janitor was cleaning floors at a school and the reporter was saying that we shouldn’t judge a person by the work they do. And yet I had made a lot of assumptions about this silver-haired person with a mop in his hand. Uneducated, poor, can’t afford to retire were some of the things that crossed my head. I was in for a shock when the reporter revealed that the unassuming janitor was actually part of a team of engineers that sent astronauts to the moon!
So what was he doing cleaning floors for a living? He had suffered a stroke which impaired his cognitive memory. So the former electromagnetic engineer had to give up his career of choice and took up a job as a janitor to stay healthy and keep himself occupied. In the process he has struck quite a rapport with the students, who love hearing about his mission to the moon and give him hugs and high-fives.
When posed with this tricky question, “Would you go back to your old job if you got your cognitive memory back?” the former engineer said that he loved his job and would not trade it for anything. “These kids say – I love you and thank you – not something I heard from NASA as far as I can remember,” said the old man.
Watching this reminded me of my short stint as a teacher and being associated with children and schools in any capacity. The pay wasn’t that great but I loved every minute of it. Kids are unpretentious and genuine. It is a gift to work with them and for them. After that it is always difficult dealing with adults.
Hugs, laughter, games, cards, and flowers are given freely to show you that they care. I remember when I had to leave a long-term substitute position because I was moving (story of my life!), the whole class made cards for me and I had only worked with them for a month! If the schools in my county did not require substitutes to complete a mandatory training, I very well would still be working in a school. I look back at those days and see all those innocent faces, the laughter, the tears, the skinned knees, the hugs and the sweetest compliments, and it warms my heart more than a fat pay check or a promotion.
I feel incredibly grateful that the universe gave me the opportunity to work with children, to touch their lives and to be touched by their grace, beauty, wisdom, genuine love and affection.