Walt Bettinger, CEO of Charles Schwab Corporation, shared in a New York Times article (February 7, 2016), about an experience he had in college. He was about to take the final for his business strategy class. Striving to maintain a perfect 4.0, he spent long hours preparing for this last exam, memorizing formulas to do calculations for case studies.
He described what happened:
"The teacher handed out the final exam, and it was on one piece of paper, which really surprised me because I figured it would be longer than that. Once everyone had their paper, the teacher said, 'Go ahead and turn it over.' Both sides were blank.
And the professor said, I've taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last ten weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: 'What is the name of the lady who cleans this building.'"
Bettinger continues, "And that had a powerful impact. It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie. I'd seen her, but I'd never taken the time to ask her name. I've tried to know every Dottie I've worked with ever since."
I copied this article and sent it to my oldest daughter, Sarah, who at the time was an art teacher in the Denver public schools. She is about to celebrate nineteen years of teaching. I wanted her to read this story because she naturally follows the lessons Walt Bettinger's professor tried to teach his class. Throughout her time teaching, she has befriended every custodian in the schools where she worked. She not only values their contribution of cleaning her room each day and emptying the trash, but she spends time talking to them, asking about their families, honoring them as people.
Sarah often bakes a batch of chocolate chip cookies to take to the custodians when they have gone the extra mile to clean a particularly messy art room or to offer compassion for a personal struggle they are experiencing.
"The custodians are my best friends," I've heard her say a few times, "because they are willing to take time to do tasks that make my job easier."
When I asked what she thought of the article, she replied, "I showed it to the custodian."
What if one day we went to church and when it came time for the sermon, everyone in the congregation received a blank sheet of paper. What if the pastor started the sermon by saying, "You have a blank sheet of paper. Write the name of the custodian at this church, at your workplace or your gym. Or write the name of your mailman or garbage collector or other people who make your day easier, assisting in some way that you take for granted." What if you gave yourself the assignment right now!
If you have no name on the paper, make it your mission this week to introduce yourself to a custodian, mailman, or trash collector and express your gratitude to them for their work.
Prayer: Loving God, you surround us with people who help us each day, but we have no idea about their name or life circumstances. Help us show an interest in them like you continuously do with us, and show us ways to extend love and gratitude. Amen.