What A Janitor Can Teach Us About Knowing Our Worth

self-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 main 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. To the children, I was Mrs W (or Mrs Woman as one little boy called me) to the teaching staff, I was an equal.

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 liked to think that 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. 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 could 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. If nobody did these jobs, our society would be very different.

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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Finding The Magic

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“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”~ Nora Roberts

How do you see the world?

Do your eyes simply see what’s there or can you see beyond it?

I see beyond what’s there, I always have.

What is magic?

To some people magic is merely the art of illusion.

It’s Dynamo walking on water outside the Houses of Parliament or David Blaine whacking somebody’s mobile phone into a bottle of beer. These magicians conjure up the impossible with the art of deception.

To others, magic is Harry Potter whipping out his ward to fend off the Dementors but the real magic is in J K Rowling’s writing which comes from her extraordinary imagination.

There is another kind of magic which it’s all around us if only we take the time to look.  It’s is the magic that makes you happy even when you’re doing the most mundane of tasks, like cleaning the loo.

For those who are still with me (the others having long since hit the X button thinking ‘Off you go, Nutjob’) allow me to explain…

The magic that I’m talking about is a feeling.

All you have to do to feel the magic is open your mind to the possibility of it.

It’s about taking the mundane and giving it some sparkle and who doesn’t like a bit of sparkle?

Household Tasks

Washing the dishes is a mundane task. It’s a job that OH hates so much that he actually bought a dishwasher so he wouldn’t have to, the lazy git!

I do use it to do the heavily soiled stuff but most days I fill the washing up bowl with bubbles and add a few drops of essential oil. I use grapefruit because it’s uplifting. A few sniffs and my mood lifts and I lose myself in the suds. It puts me in an almost meditative state and what was once a boring job has become a pleasurable experience.

Meditation isn’t all about sitting cross-legged and omming, y’know. 😉

The trick is to be in the present. I try not to think about anything except what I am doing. Though my mind naturally wants to wander ( I have major mind traffic) I consciously drag it back the now. When I’m done faffing, I leave the water in the bowl to allow the essential oils to keep doing their stuff.

Similarly I clean the bathroom with a few drops of oil. I use lemon myrtle spray around the toilet (and up the walls) as the males of the house seemingly have out of control hose-pipes for penises and are prone to missing the entire toilet! Inhaling man wee makes me feel grumpy (not to mention, squiffy) but after a few squirts of my myrtle, it’s like they’ve never been in.

OK, maybe loo cleaning is stretching the concept of magic a bit but it is definitely an improvement, no?

Books

I read books that inspire me and if the cover is aesthetically pleasing, then all the better! All part of being a visual person..

I like books that have me thinking long after I’ve turned the last page. I imagine how the characters look and for that reason I tend not to watch the films because they so often disappoint me. The Harry Potter books are an exception as the films actually do justice to J K Rowling’s excellent writing.

I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book. ~ J K Rowling

Music

I listen to music that speaks to my soul, whether it’s rock, pop or classical. I allow my imagination to run riot with music where there are no lyrics to influence my mind. As far back as I can remember this has been the case.. as a little girl I used to listen to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and images would flow uninterpreted into my mind, I could lose myself for hours this way..

Music is the strongest form of magic. ~ Marylin Manson

Mr Manson, you may scare small kids with your face but you are absolutely right!

Film and TV

I have a mild form of synaesthesia and this would explain why I am unable to watch horror. All violence affects me but I can’t cope with watching horror films. If I see an upsetting image, it affects me for weeks or months after and I never forget it. For this reason I stay away from the news as much as possible. Similarly, I am just as deeply affected by good news and feel good films and TV.

I like to watch films that remind me of how fortunate I am to be alive and which inspire me to be a better person.

One of my all time favourites is Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life  because it reminds me that as insignificant as we think we are, our lives have purpose. It’s a timeless classic that leaves it’s mark on each generation.

Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? ~ Clarence, the angel in It’s A Wonderful Life

See The Magic

We come into the world with our magic buttons switched on. We find joy in the simplest of things and everything is new and magical but somewhere along the way we lose it. We allow other people’s world views to influence our own, even if it’s not what we truly believe. We allow stress to take over and before we know it we are weighed down with worry and the magic is long forgotten.

I’m not saying that we should all abandon our common sense and call ourselves Moonbeam (although if calling yourself Moonbeam floats your boat, then you should go ahead and call yourself Moonbeam and bugger what people think) it’s just that a little sprinkling of magic makes life more bearable.

In it’s simplest terms, it’s about finding meaning to life.

Some people believe life has no meaning and if that’s you – fair enough – but there is just too much going on for me to ever agree with it.

For me, it’s about seeing and feeling beyond what can be physically seen and felt.

Sound wanky?

Maybe but it works for me.

That magic button? It’s still there. You just need to turn it back on.

To remind yourself of how it’s done – watch your children because they see the magic that is all around them.

Children see magic because they look for it. ~ Christopher Moore

Image Credit OUCHCharley Via Creative Commons

A Bit Of Everything