You might assume I’m on the road quite a bit judging purely from my social media updates. It’s true, and often times, I feel like my office is my car and my car is my office. Sometimes my work as a speaker takes me to places really early in the morning or very late at night. With this variance of scheduling, toll takers on the turnpike become your best friends and the cashier at the gas station can point out very easily which vehicle is yours. However, as predictable as all this seems, never is it all the same, the other night was an example of that statement.
After driving for a good 70 minutes straight, I decided to stop at a nearby heavy duty truck stop off the highway to stretch and get a bottle of water. As I walked in, I immediately noticed a man mopping the floors next to a yellow caution sign standing up on the floor. He was in a full janitorial uniform and was working hard to do his nightly cleaning. He had a peculiar look of sadness on his face.
I reached out to him and said, “How are you doing tonight sir?” He didn’t reply nor acknowledged I said anything to him. So I went on my way and walked to the back of the store to get a bottle of water. After retrieving the water bottle I walked passed the man again and said, “Well, do you have to work awhile tonight?” He quickly looked at me and said, “All Night Long. Every night, I clean the floors. I clean the aisles. I clean the bathrooms. And, I even clean the showers we have for truckers. I hate my job, but I guess someone’s gotta do it!”
After hearing his complaint and the clear disgust he had for his work, I replied: “Well sir, it sounds like with all that cleaning, they’ve got you doing the dirty work!” 😊 As soon as I said this his face broke from a sad disgusted look to a small hidden smile and a light chuckle.
He then warmed up a little more and said, “Well, it’s a job, that’s for sure.”
“I believe it.” I replied. “But at least you are making a difference with your job too.”
Immediately, the man stopped what he was doing, cocked his head to the side, and his facial expression changed. He then replied with a smile, “You know, I guess I never looked at it that way.” I shook his hand and told him thanks for all he did.
You might be thinking what is significant about this story. Fact is I’ve met a lot of people who dislike their jobs. They feel enslaved to their work rather than energized by doing it. We must never underestimate or undervalue the jobs we or others have, the efforts put forth, or the roles played. Whether you are the CEO of a booming business, a chef at a popular restaurant, or even a janitor at a truck stop mopping the floors, your work makes a difference. Take value in it.
As I went to leave and pay for my bottled water, I walked over to the door and suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, it was the janitor holding his mop proudly with a smile on his face. He said, “Thanks for the perspective. I really needed that tonight. You have a safe drive home sir.”
The irony of it all is a janitor who at first didn’t even acknowledge me, but with a little bit of reaching out and listening, I left the truck stop with that janitor now reaching out to me. I’d say the Dirty Work Cleans Up Well when we choose to take pride in what we do and understand it’s not about the mop, but the difference we all can make.