Monday, May 6, 2013

Do You Know Your Janitor's Name?

Act 126:  Value all people.

One day last week when I was dropping my kindergartner off for school, he pointed out one of his classmates to me.  There he is mom, right behind the janitor.  I realize that most of you are going to think I completely overreacted in this situation - I immediately pulled my son aside and asked him if he knew that the janitor's name was Michael.  I asked him if he thought Michael might also have kids.  I asked him what his favorite ice-cream might be and whether or not he too might have liked playing with Legos as a child.   My son curiously answered each and every question with some basic, "I don't know's" and eventually proceeded to join the rest of his class. 

Obviously there is nothing wrong with the term janitor at its surface, and my son really was just using this particular individual as a marker to point out someone else.  So what gives, mom?  Perhaps I reacted in the way that I did because my innocent little boy, at his tender age of 5, had already learned to label another human being by a title - one that has traditionally been looked down upon and dismissed as less important, even degrading in this particular setting.  While he probably didn't mean a thing by calling this man, the janitor, I wanted to humanize Michael and help my son recognize the value in all people and the commonalities that we share regardless of our professional roles and life circumstances.  Most importantly, each time he roams the halls of his elementary school, I wanted my son to see a fellow human being named Michael, who is probably working really hard to support his family, rather than just that guy who's always mopping the floors in the background.  


  1. My father was a firm believer in knowing people beyond their "functional roles". What we may commonly know as support staff, dad knew them as individuals, parents, spouses, avid sports fans and craftsmen. He also knew the secret that they really are the glue of an operation. I not only admired this about him but I have tried to immitate this attribute in my life. What I have discovered is that you can create a wonderfully supportive work family. This was evident with my father when so many "support staff " from his various employers attended his memorial service. When they told my mother, brother and I how much he loved us and how proud he was of us, I realized something important. They didn't see him as some adjunct faculty, but as a loving husband, proud father and caring friend. That is what happens when we value all people!

    1. Your father's spirit undoubtedly continues to reach all those he touched in his lifetime.