There are a whole lot of things that we do simply because we have to. Some things we don’t like to do, while other things are a pleasure to do. Of those things that are distasteful and for those things we don’t like to do, if we’re lucky, we get to blame someone else. “It’s her fault!” “It’s just part of my job!” “I have no choice!”
I went to a boarding high school and those of us who had financial difficulties had a sort of work study program. Two or three times a week, I had to work in one of the classrooms. I’d empty trash, sweep the floor, clean and wash the chalkboards (yes, we had them back then), straighten desks. A little less often, I had to wash windows.
It never took a great amount of time, but it did take time. It took me away from my friends. It took me away from things I enjoyed doing such as reading, listening to music, watching TV, messing around outside in a pick-up football or basketball game or a game of Capture The Flag. I realized that I had to do it because my parents couldn’t afford the whole tuition, but I resented it some. Maybe a lot. I looked at it as a duty. A chore. Something I had to do.
Brother Fabian was my supervisor. An older guy. Had a limp and snowy white hair. Stooped a bit. Quiet. Usually had a smile, maybe a tune he’d whistle.
After I thought I was done with my work, I’d find Brother Fabian and he’d inspect my room, and usually, there was something I had missed. I don’t think I ever passed inspection the first go-round. Usually it took two or three times to get it right in his mind.
One evening after I had passed his inspection he asked me to take a seat, so I did. Immediately I ran through a list of possibilities, of things I might get reprimanded for, but there wasn’t anything that jumped out. But in a teenager’s mind, anything was a possibility.
He asked me, “Why do you clean this classroom?” I told him because I had to. He smiled and nodded and said, “Why do you think I clean the building?” I shrugged, not willing to say he got assigned the job because he must have done something to deserve it. He told me that he loved the building. He liked making sure kids like me had a clean room to go to, a clean hallway to walk down. He said he wanted to make sure that when someone like me sat in a desk, it wouldn’t fall apart. He talked about pride. He talked about duty. He talked about service and he talked of love.
Back then, I think I sat there like Charlie Brown and the “Waa, Waa, Waa” noise must have played in my ears and through my head. But I think something stuck because I remember Brother Fabian and I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. So I guess, not so much of Charlie Brown and the “Waa, Waa, Waa” after all.
Out Of Duty Or Love?
One state and at least six years ago at my previous building, we had a bully. He picked on everyone smaller, skinnier, and shorter than he. One day, a tiny freshman carrying an armful of books walked in front of him towards class, and this bully shoved the kid so hard that the tiny kid went flying along with everything he carried. Books, papers, pens, paper and a calculator all over the hallway. Most kids laughed. Almost all kept moving on to their classrooms and their next class. Almost all, but one.
Nate, a senior who didn’t even know the name of the tiny kid, stopped, set his books down and gathered the little kid’s books and pens and papers and calculator, piled everything onto his own books, helped the tiny kid to his feet, and then escorted the tiny kid to class, carrying the kid’s books and supplies for him. Did this without a word. Nate walked into the classroom with the tiny kid. Went to the tiny kid’s desk and set the kid’s books and supplies down, and said, “I’ll meet you here after class.” And then Nate left. And sure enough, Nate met him at the door when the bell rang and walked with him to the next class. Did that for a couple of days.
I found out about it and asked Nate, “Why?” He shrugged and didn’t say a word. I thanked him. He blushed and shrugged again, and left my office. From then on, whenever I saw Nate in the hallway, he would give me a nod. Sometimes I’d see him walking with the tiny kid and on those occasions, Nate didn’t nod or acknowledge me in the least. That was okay. Very okay.
Out Of Duty Or Love?
I think we do all kinds of things out of duty. Some pleasant, some not so much. I think we do all sorts of things out of love, and again, some pleasant, some not so much. But I think both can be, and usually are, beneficial . . . to us, to each other, to others. I think we learn things about ourselves if we examine why we do what we do, and I think others learn things about us in their observations of us doing those things. I think kids learn a lot about us as we go through life doing this or doing that and the attitude we take when doing this or that. Duty? Love? Maybe one or the other. Sometimes both, I think. Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!