Just like Grandma Mary

Posted on Oct 18 2013 - 8:23am by Tim Abram

I will always have a special affinity toward janitorial staff members. Especially janitorial staff members on school campuses.

These hardworking individuals have to clean up after us college students and make sure the facilities we use are presentable, among other tasks. I would guess oftentimes these services are done without many words of gratitude from the people who benefit from them the most, the students. I am certainly not suggesting that no one ever expresses their thanks to the janitorial staff members, but I am just suggesting it could happen more.

Earlier I mentioned that I especially favored the janitorial staff on school campuses, and the reason to me is a personal one. My grandmother worked as a janitorial staff member at the same elementary school I attended from the time I was in kindergarten to the time I was in third grade. Because of my grandmother, I have never looked at janitorial persons as simply people who could not find a better job or someone who lacked the skills to work elsewhere. I always see them as individuals who each have a unique story. I always see them just like my Grandma Mary.

Though my grandmother was a janitor, I owe many of the academic achievements in my life to her. Because she knew the administration at the schools, she always made sure that I had the best teachers in each grade. In fact, she handpicked each and every one of my teachers. However, my grandmother did more than just pick the best teachers for me; she wanted, well, rather demanded excellence from me.

After working all day, we would ride home and then she would sit down and help me with my homework. At the time, I did not know that being a janitor was not a glamorous job; in fact, I thought it was a cool one because everyone knew and loved my grandmother, plus it was nice having her at school with me all the time (except the few times I got in trouble).

The janitorial staff here on campus are much more than what we can sometime relegate them to be. They are people with stories of trials and triumphs which make them unique. Late last week I shared a good conversation with a janitor who told me to simply call him “Mon.”

Mon and I shared a few laughs about the movie “Friday.” He also went on to ask about my plans after graduation. In that moment, he wasn’t a janitor and I wasn’t a college student. We were both just regular people sharing a conversation. Although I will never know this, I bet Mon appreciated me stopping what I was doing to just talk to him. There is no telling how our conversation impacted Mon’s feelings about work that night, but I would predict our conversation went a long way in the eyes of Mon — it surely did for me.

So, if you see a person on the janitorial staff around, smile and ask them how they are doing. And if you have the time, even find out something about them. Most importantly, extend a sincere word of thanks for everything that they do when we are sleeping to make this place great. This comes as second nature for me, because I do not see them as just janitors, I see them just like my Grandma Mary.

Tim Abram is a senior public policy leadership major from Horn Lake.