Saturday, January 14, 2012


 I hadn't seen Laura in years and I can’t say that I was all that thrilled when I ran into her in front of Trader Joe’s over the holidays.  When I first met Laura we were both teachers…. with a difference. I liked teaching even if I wasn’t overly fond of the state of education at the moment. Laura, on the other hand, was one of those teachers who acted like being a classroom teacher was the booby prize in education and I was the biggest booby of all. One of the first things she said to me last month was, “You’re still teaching? I left teaching years ago. I guess some of us just need more from life.”   Some things never change. 

The hard truth of the matter is that Laura reveled in her discontent and it contaminated everything she did. No matter what she did or where she was it was never enough.  She was like a whole bunch of people who treat the work they’re doing like they’ve stepped in something nasty. They make it very clear by how they do their job and treat the people they work with that they were gypped by the universe and denied their rightful place in the sun.  That’s a crime because no job is too small when you know your real worth.  My dad knew that and so did Eugene.

Eugene and my dad were both men who knew the true meaning of work.  The work they did and they way the did it reflected the value they had for themselves and the people in their lives. My dad was a heavy equipment operator, short order cook, and jack of all trades when the need arose. He liked having a good time and could make the most mundane task entertaining.  My dad would have liked Eugene who was a janitor in the small town,elementary school where I teach. Eugene knew every child’s name and every teacher’s heart. He was the touch stone of our school, a reminder of what is possible in a human being. 

Some people believe that they are only important if their job is important. (I still haven’t figured out who makes that call.)  It is painfully obvious that the meaning of work for them is to serve their ego, proving with their job title if nothing else that they are important at last.  And heaven help the people they work with when the job doesn’t measure up to the task.  That’s when it becomes really painful, especially if you happen to get in the way.

 What I’m doing may not be the most important job in the grand scheme of things, but it’s important to me for a whole bunch of reasons. I want to do a good job and I want to enjoy doing it. I come by that honest. I realize however, that it’s not a particularly popular sentiment.  Laura is not alone in thinking that there must be something deeply wrong with someone who likes their job.   If Eugene were still around I’d go talk to him and he’d make me see the absurd in the situation until I could laugh about it. My dad would simply remind me that they call it work for a reason and don’t expect people to be who they’re not.  Unfortunately they’re both gone. Dad passed some years back and Eugene joined him a few weeks ago. They will both be missed, not for the work they did, but for how and why they did it.  No job is too small for a great man and no job can make a small man great. It’s not what you do that makes you important. It’s how you do it. Eugene knew that and so did my dad. Thanks, guys. May you rest in peace, you earned it.

" We can't all do great things, but we can do small things with great love." Mother Teresa


Charmaine Coimbra said...

I so loved your thoughts on this one, I shared with all.

It's true--the folks who really do influence us in a most positive way are the unassuming who just go about their business with a smile and positive approach.

Debra said...

Thanks. Eugene's funeral was standing room only. People commented over and over that he didn't know how much people cared. I don't know for sure but I suspect that it didn't matter one way or another. He was who he was. He made an effort to live a good life and enjoy what came his way. He valued kindness and a job well done and you know something? That's true for the people that I most admire. Their sense of self comes from a deeper more stable and lasting center than any one thing they might do.