The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Joyful Janitor

I apologize immensely for my lack of writing lately. I blame the usual culprits: school, work, graduation. More than anything, though, I blame a state of self-pity.

With graduation looming and unemployment with it, I have dug myself a hole and climbed in it, toting my bag of "Woe Me's" behind me. I realize that sadness and a tinge of uncertainty is normal when you are parting ways with friends and a life you have become accustomed to.

A constant looming cloud of doubt and anger, however, is not an acceptable response. But it was the one I chose. I half-heartedly filled out job applications online, knowing the whole time that I was not going to be chosen. I detached myself emotionally from friends because I knew I was about to lose them to distance.

My inspiration to take back the written word came today from an unlikely source: the janitor.

We have always had very kind janitors, but we have recently been sent a new one. He is an older man, with a Santa Clause beard and a hearty laugh. He happily talks to himself as he scampers from one area to the next with a vacuum or broom.

I was buried deep in my Corporate Strategy book when he appeared at my desk. He smiled really big and told me that his German Chocolate cake and cookies had won first place at the fair recently. I knew I should probably finish my homework problem, but something about his spirit instead caused me to recount the humorous story of the time I attempted to make a three-layer German chocolate cake myself. Before you could say "new friend," I learned that he was one of three boys and that his mother insisted that they all know how to "cook, clean and do the dishes."

As he left, he caught me off guard. He said, "Have a good day, Ashton." This parting phrase is not out of the ordinary except for the fact that I don't have a name tag or nameplate on my desk. He somehow took the time to find out what my name is and use it to make me feel special. It's something so small, yet so significant.

I don't know this man's story. I don't know if he's ever been married or if he's lost someone he loved dearly. All I know is that he has a job not many would envy, but he does it with a cheerful heart. He even remarked to me, "I'm so glad I took the janitorial position because the food service industry isn't doing so well." He is so thankful for where he is right now, yet I can't even muster thankfulness to God for the opportunity to finish my master's degree.

You see, a week or so ago, I wouldn't have even noticed him or made a correlation to my life. I would have shrugged off the silly old man who mumbles about my snack selections as he grabs my trash can.

But today, as my heart is beginning to make a turnaround, he is a lighthouse with a broom in hand, pointing me in the way of non-circumstantial joy. It's easy to be happy when things are going right; it's simple to be thankful when you feel you have been given everything you asked for.

It is in the silent times that this joy is most needed, yet those are the moments that I tend to toss it to the wayside-- only to replace it with sadness and regret.

He will probably never be aware that he blessed my life today, but I want to take this chance to let the rest of you know that you have. I realize, for those close to me, that it hasn't been the easiest time to be my supporters and confidants. I appreciate your kind words despite my pessimism and your encouragement to press on when I wanted to give up.

Consider this my new motto:

Ecclesiastes 11:9

"Be happy, young [wo]man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment."

I am young, so loved and -- most of all -- cared for by a God who is concerned for the sparrow. Why I felt that he wasn't concerned for a living, breathing, talented daughter of his is beyond me. He cares about the wellbeing of a silly bird for goodness sakes.

This isn't going to be an overnight process; years of negativity and venting aren't easy to overcome. I do see a need for a change though; a need for a constant state of thanksgiving -- thanksgiving that does not depend on specified conditions in order to take residence in my soul.

It just took a little bit of nudging from those I love; and an encounter with a sweet man who empties out more than just my leftover granola bar wrappers; with it, he helped me empty out selfishness, pride and a lack of gratitude.

And for that, I am truly thankful.


Anonymous Matthew Walton said...

Very nice, Ashton. I hope, wherever you land, that you continue to write on this blog or be in a position that I can continue to be mesmerized by your amazing talent with words. You truly have a gift, and I'm sure this janitor would love to read this account. Good luck with the "real world." It's tough and many times not rewarding in the occupational sense, but we find our way through it nonetheless. If you are ever in the Jonesboro area, give Alicia or me a call. We'd love to see you again. - Matthew

December 6, 2010 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger HannahKey said...

Sweet cousin,
This post really resonated with me. At Eric and Sarah's wedding they had a time of blessing when a group of people (including me) gave them words of encouragement. I noticed that EVERY single person that blessed Sarah mentioned her joy. Particularly her ability to find joy in the most mundane of things. Like you, I find myself complaining a lot because of homework and assignments and blah blah blah. This is no way to live. Thank you for reminding me again of my recent call to find joy in the mundane.

Love you,


December 7, 2010 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Cole said...

*double like*

January 26, 2011 at 2:24 PM  

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