Custodian This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Stainless steel versus dried, misplaced, masticated sugar. Scraping gum. Why me? Why is it here? The garbage can is only a few steps away. What would it have taken to throw this foe into the pail and defeat it for good?

These were the questions I asked myself as I wielded a putty knife against my new enemy, spent gum. As I tackled this task I wondered who would win. Me, or the hardened Bazooka affixed to the underside of this school desk? My first paying job as a buildings and grounds summer helper opened my eyes to the other side of my school. As I think about the people who work behind the scenes, I ­realize the dedication that goes into this work.

Most high school students take for granted the daily grind of hard work. After working as a school custodian this summer, my outlook has changed dramatically. These people are here every day sweeping floors, wiping tables, moving furniture and boxes, yet they’re almost invisible. As I got familiar with the crew, it became clear that they are proud of what they do, and perform their job to the best of their ability. I very quickly came to appreciate the role they played in my life. What had seemed to be unimportant and trivial was now what my life was all about: conquering graffiti, waxing floors, scraping gum.

As a varsity soccer and baseball player, it is easy to correlate the dedication and hard work of a job to the performance and satisfaction of a job well done on the field. Whether it is stepping it up to block a goal, striking out that last batter, or seeing my reflection in a newly waxed floor, I put my best effort forward. In the past, hard work meant studying for tests, running four miles on the soccer field, and meeting deadlines for writing papers. I now take the time to look at situations from other points of view, and imagine the work that goes into the little things, like scraping gum.

Now that school is back in session, I no longer work as a custo­dian, but I notice the maintenance workers each day. When I spoke with a former co-worker at lunch one day, I glanced at a gum-chomping classmate and asked, “What are you going to do with that gum?” The custodian just reached into his back pocket, pulled out a familiar stainless-steel putty knife, and offered it to me with a smile.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Chrissy102 said...
Oct. 5, 2009 at 9:29 pm
Inspirational.
 
Thomas M. said...
Dec. 14, 2008 at 8:56 am
All of life is a matter of perspective. It downright changes everything! I'm publishing a book before long on that instrumental aspect of life. You can read my college essay too if you want. The Taken Path.
 
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