The office building I work in is shaped like a slight altered “H” – two wings connected by a central corridor, three stories tall. It’s a campus-like setting, and three adjacent buildings are constructed exactly like it.
Every morning, a cleaning crew arrives at the buildings, a “crew” of one for each building. They work steadily throughout the day at three tasks.
They empty trash cans in every office and the common rooms, like small kitchens, copier areas and conference rooms.
They vacuum the floors.
And they clean the bathrooms – toilets, urinals, sinks, and floors. They empty the paper trash in the bathrooms, too.
The next day they return, and the cleaning starts over again. Every day is like every other day.
Turnover is high. Often the crews change weekly. It’s not a dangerous job, but it is repetitive, and boring, and it doesn’t exactly have the status of exalted work. The people are paid better than minimum wage, but not much better.
For about a year, we have had the same person cleaning our building. It’s highly unusual for a member of the cleaning crew to have that length of service.
Her name is Char.
She’s short and a little on the hefty side. She doesn’t so much walk as sway side-to-side going forward.
She has learned the name of every person in the building. That’s more than 300 people. In the same time period she’s been working our building, our department, which has previously occupied about 60 percent of one floor in one wing, grew dramatically. It pushed the other 40 percent into other buildings, moved one team to yet another building, and moved about 15 of us to an office suite area in the first floor of the building.
In numbers of people, the department grew from about 40 to 120.
Char learned the names of every new person who became part of the team. Every one. She knows every one of 120 people in our department by name. Not even the head of the department did that. And she knows the names of the other 180 people in the building, too.
And she talks.
She stops by my office for the trash, and always asks how I’m doing. (She calls me “Mr. Glynn.”) She’s asked about things on my desk (“Is that a chess piece, Mr. Glynn?” “Yes, it a replica of a Lewes chessman, found on a British island and made about 1200 A.D.” “I love to play chess.”) (“You’ve read all those books?” “Yes, I read a lot for the job.” “Oh, man, that’s a lot of books.”)
So one day curiosity gets the better of me, and I ask Char if she enjoys her job.
“Well,” she says, “I do most days. It’s not hard. There’s just a lot of it. But it’s like any job, I suppose, it has its highs and its lows. But I really like the people, I mean the people I work for. They treat us well. And I like the people here. Everyone is always nice.”
She pauses a moment, and then lowers her voice as she continues.
“My job is a gift, Mr. Glynn,” she says. “It is a gift from the Lord. It is a gift every day from the Lord.”
Her name is Char, and she just preached a sermon to me in 23 words.
I feel like I’ve been to church.
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Photograph by Karen Arnold via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.