What A Janitor Can Teach Us About Knowing Our Worth


During a visit to NASA space station in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He walked over to the man and said,

Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?

The janitors response?

I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.

What a great story!

That man saw himself, not just as a janitor, but as a member of the NASA team and he was right, he was helping to put a man on the moon.

I have been a caretaker and I understood my worth too.

There are many jobs in this life that people consider themselves to be above doing so they belittle the people who do them without giving thought to the fact that they are backbone of society.

I once went for a cleaning job at a well known department store. I turned up early in the morning – dressed smartly – and was shown around by a supervisor. During my interview, one of the cleaners came out of the toilets and the supervisor belittled this lady despite me standing there listening to every word. When I was offered the job at the end of the interview, I declined it and the reason was the lack of respect shown to the cleaner.

Working as a caretaker in a nursery school, I understood that I was helping to make a safe and comfortable environment for children to learn in. Children can’t concentrate if they are too hot or too cold can they? I made sure that doors opened properly and bike wheels ran smoothly. If it could be mended, I’d mend it. If it was broken beyond repair, I disposed of it.

I looked after the building when it was empty during the holidays and was there to oversee any work that was done. I never saw myself as a just a caretaker. It was never just a job. I saw myself as a guardian of a wonderful old building that had been around since before World War Two. It wasn’t the best paid job in the world but it paid the mortgage and put food on the table and it made me happy to be there.

After the school closed due to council cuts, I took another job this time as a cleaner in a local warehouse. When I gave my notice in a year later, my supervisor said I was one of the best cleaners she’d ever employed and was sorry to see me go. She tried to convince me to stay by offering me more hours but I needed to make more money than she could offer as my personal situation had changed so the decision was made for me. There had never been one word of complaint about my work and the company for who I’d cleaned for offered me a full time job working for them based on my work ethic.

Some cleaners turn up to do the bare minimum, it has to be said. It’s simply a job – a means to an end – but that’s not how I work. I often went beyond what was expected of me, especially in the kitchen where it wasn’t part of my job to clean the microwave or fridge. If I had time, I did it. I polished the desks in the offices upstairs taking care not to break photo-frames of treasured family photographs. I emptied the bins, hoovered, cleaned the windows and washed up the odd dirty cup that I found. I didn’t have to wash pots but I don’t like starting a new day by washing yesterdays dishes and I think the office staff appreciated not having to.

It was rare for managers to be working when I was but some would make me a coffee if they were working late. I’d also get the odd cake as a treat and at Christmas I received a bottle of wine and some chocolates along with the entire warehouse staff. It made me feel like I was one of the team instead of what I was – which was technically a contract cleaner.

If I mopped a floor and somebody walked on it, they were apologetic. I once saw a comment left by the previous cleaner which said how annoyed she was that people were walking all over her clean floor! What did she expect, for them to levitate their way into the warehouse?

There were some interesting moments which prompted this post but in the main, I was treated respectfully and enjoyed working there despite the ‘icky’ nature of part of my job, as in, cleaning the men’s bogs which usually required numerous blasts from an air freshener for me to be able to get through the door without passing out!

As a cleaner I was helping to keep a warehouse and offices running smoothly by ensuring everything was clean and tidy. Despite having the social skills of a wheelie bin, I did it all with a smile and – more importantly – I enjoyed the job.

Having done work like this makes me appreciative of all people who do these kind of jobs, even the binmen who piss me off by missing out my bin! Where would we be if we didn’t have a bin collection? Filthy, rat infested streets, that’s where!

When you wake up tomorrow morning, spare a thought to all the people who’s day starts long before yours. Think about the street cleaners who’ve been clearing away last night’s rubbish and vomit strewn streets so that you don’t have to see it.

Think about the cleaners who work hard to make shopping center floors shine and windows gleam. You may see them pushing cleaning trolleys about throughout the day so how about giving them an appreciative smile instead of walking straight past them?

How about the people who keep the hospitals clean? I’d say that was one of the most important jobs in there! The prevention of infection starts with them, no? A clean hospital means fewer infections and,as we know, infections can kill. Such is the importance of their job and in my experience the bedside manner of your average cleaner wipes the floor with that of many doctors and nurses. See what I did there?

Things run smoothly because there are people behind the scenes who make it possible. They do the jobs that you might never imagine yourself doing but they are necessary jobs. People might not be on great pay or have their own parking space but their worth is invaluable.

Somebody told me once that I was ‘just a cleaner’ and my worth was based on what I earned. I saw myself as keeping a roof over my family’s heads which I’d say is pretty important!

The NASA janitor saw himself as being part of something much bigger and that’s how it should be from the cleaner to the MD because we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves.

“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.” ~ Nic Sheff

A Bit Of Everything

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14 thoughts on “What A Janitor Can Teach Us About Knowing Our Worth

  1. I’m passionate about this like you Tracy! Nobody who does a job we’ll is *just a* NO they are part of the team. Having worked in a hospital I can assure you it wouldn’t run smoothly and correctly if there wasn’t a doctor, cleaner, nurse, receptionist etc, all there, doing their bit…..it’s called being part of a team. Also in team work, we should all mix in and help each other if and when we can. Working along some very good midwife Sisters, I have often seen them with a mop in their hand, trying to get the room cleaned and ready for the next lady. I loved to hear the Sisters-in-Charge saying they wouldn’t ask anybody to do something that they wouldn’t be prepared to do themselves, what a good attitude in life!
    However on the other hand, I don’t like work shy people who use their title to be somewhat lazy by saying ” I’m just a …….” you know the pay etc when you take a job on, don’t apply if you want to do it half hearted, there is always someone out there who would live to have the title of doing that job…….that saying…..if a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing well👍.
    Ladies (or men) if you stay at home, you are not *just a* housewife! it’s one of the hardest unpaid jobs going! However when did the word housewife become to lowly to say……why are people now homemakers, home economists etc, DON’T belittle a housewife or househusband!!!
    Right, I’ve got to go now Tracy, I’m *just a* lazy git laying in bed😉
    Love you darling lady😘xxxxx

    • I love that about the Sister who rolled her sleeves up and got stuck in when she was needed. And stay at home parents, well that is an important job – not at all biased lol
      Thank you for your wonderful comments as usual. Luffs you xxxxxx

  2. Great post! Does it matter who does what? Everyone does something that is part of a bigger picture. Nobody should belittle anyone who is doing the job they are paid for to the best of their ability. Personally I could never be a cleaner…I probably could do with one for my house!

    • Cleaning money suited me as I was only allowed to earn so much at the time. The right hours for the right pay. I figured that I’d been cleaning up after three males for years so this wouldn’t be that much different lol

  3. This strikes a real chord with me. My son has a taxi to get to his boarding school on a Sunday. The drivers (there are two who take turns) are both big, rough-looking guys, and to be fair one of them does look like Shrek ie terrifying, but they are both not just drivers but escorts chosen to look after vulnerable young people. They have seen my boy through traffic hell, blizzards, breakdowns and delays, always with a smile, and sometimes even buying him a hot drink or in one case a bag of chips due to a long delay where they worried he might be hungry.

    I trust them with his life over 150 miles of the worst roads in the country every week and to me they are the lynch pin of his entire schooling, as without them he couldn’t get there. However, other people I know (both parents and professionals) have been rude and/or dismissive of them in the past. They seem to have no concept that these people at the “bottom” of the pile are as important, if not more so, than any of the decision makers or cheque signers.

    Gosh, sorry for the waffle! But as I said, it struck a chord. And everyone needs stuff cleaned.

    • They really are the backbone of our society! These are the people who keep us going when thing get tough and the fact that people belittle them makes me very sad indeed. They sound like great guys!

  4. This is one of the best posts I have read in a while. What you have written truly resonates with me. I work in the care industry where similar attitudes exist. And you’re right – there are so many people working behind the scenes that their work tend to get overlooked but without them, we could not function! Thanks for sharing with #abitofeverything

  5. It makes my blood boil when someone thinks they are better than someone else because they deem their own job to be above that of someone else’s. Here in Greece it is often the bin men, government building cleaners and hospital staff who have to wait months for their pay and aren’t shown much appreciation. What people have to remember is that people who empty bins, mop floors, clean streets and or look after buildings are the salt of the earth. Take lawyers and bankers out of the equation and the world will still function, get rid of cleaners and caretakers and we would notice the difference.

    And it’s only right that we do the best we can at our jobs. One of my favourite jobs I had was being a beach cleaner, I had to get up early (not a problem) and loved knowing that the beach was clean because of me.


    • What a great comment thank you!
      How awful that the bin-men and cleaning staff had to wait for their pay! Beach cleaner sounds like a nice job, especially if you get to be on the beach before everyone else. 😉 X

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