Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mental Vitamin C - Lessons Learned in an Unlikely Place

About a month ago, I was in Nashville for training in facilitating social studies professional development for the Department of Education.  It had been a bad week for me, that week before I left, and I was traveling by myself to work with people I didn't know on a project I felt woefully inadequate to tackle.

While there I stayed at the Airport Marriott - a truly lovely place with even lovelier people.  Being a total nerd, I always like to check out the hotel "stuff" in the bathrooms.  I mean, who doesn't love itty bitty bottles of shampoo you've never tried, right?  Well, this one had makeup remover wipes, which really isn't a big deal for most people, but being the aforementioned nerd I thought it was pretty cool.  I mean, they were individually packaged and everything!  So, I used one and then settled down with a cup of chamomile tea and a book.

Well, the next day, after a long day of training, I came back to a blissfully clean room - I seriously need to get someone to make my bed here at the house - and noticed that the makeup remover wipes had been replaced . . . and then some.  I'd used just the one, but five or six were left for me.  I thought that was really nice, then noticed that the chamomile tea bag I'd used had been replaced with three or four more.  I realized that the housekeeper had noticed - I mean, REALLY noticed - what I'd used and enjoyed and then had taken the time to leave me extra.  I was very impressed.

Next day, the same thing happened.  I used one of something, and five or six more were left for me.  Plus, the room was absolutely immaculate.  Then I noticed something else.  By the elevator was a framed picture and letter.  Apparently, one of the hotel's housekeepers, a sweet, older lady, had been selected as one of the top nine Marriott employees in the nation!!  The letter noted that she'd been invited to a banquet in the employees' honor with none other than Mr. Marriott himself.  In the picture, she was absolutely beaming, smiling from ear to ear.  I, in my slowness, began to make the connection.  Could my angel housekeeper be this same lady?

After a week of learning and making new friends, it was time to leave.  I went up to get my bags, and I noticed the lady from the picture in the hall.  I had been right - she was the housekeeper!  She smiled and stopped to say hello and ask if I was having a good day.  The key is - she stopped.  She completely stopped what she was doing - cleaning Lord only knows how many rooms - and she looked at me and really seemed to want to know.  How often do I ask that question just to be polite, hoping that the person I'm talking with just says, "Great," so that we can both go on about our business?  And here she is, seriously caring about someone she's never seen before and likely will never see again?  I smiled and said that I'd thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

I got my bags, left her a tip in the room, took the elevator down to the lobby, wrestled my stuff into my car - only to realize that I'd left my beloved Tervis tumbler in the room.  On the sixteenth floor.  I seriously thought about just leaving it and buying a new one, but I decided to trek back for it, so back I went into the lobby, up the elevator, and down the hall.  I figured I'd catch her in the hall to see if she could let me back in the room real quick, and, sure enough, I saw her cleaning trolley just a couple of doors down.  Not wanting to really freak her out by sneaking up on her, I called out into the room that was open, and as soon as she saw me, she threw her hands up and said, "You left your cup!  I put it to the side for you.  I knew it was important because you never left it in the room and always had it with you, so I knew you would be back for it.  Let me get it for you," and she let me back in the room to get my cup.  I thanked her profusely and she then thanked me profusely for the tip - and in the midst of all this thanking she was handing me double handfuls of makeup remover wipes.  I mean, I filled my purse with them.  They lasted me about three weeks.

On my way out the door, I stopped and turned to her.  "Is that you in the picture by the elevators?"  She shyly nodded, and then beamed a huge smile at me.  I congratulated her on such a notable achievement, and she looked at me and said, "I love my work."

She loves her work.  And what hit me is that her work is what many consider not very important.  I mean, it's important when it DOESN'T get done, but how many people really stop to think about a hotel housekeeper?  In the spectrum of jobs, how much respect do we give it?  Yet, she didn't seem to think that way at all.  It was her work, and she did it well because that's what she does.  It isn't a job.  It is her work.  And it has the possibility to change people's worlds for the better.  It did mine that week.  She took care of me, in the truest sense of that word.

What if we all approached our jobs like this sweet one?  We do our work well simply because it is our work.  And it may not be important to everyone, but it is important to us, and it's important to our students.  So, we notice, and we stop, and we take time, and we smile, and we know that we don't always get acknowledgement, but that's okay, because we are changing people's worlds for the better. After all, that's why we do what we do.  We take care of our people.

I will always remember the lessons I learned from the housekeeper on the sixteenth floor of the Airport Marriott in Nashville, Tennessee.  Sometimes those learned in unlikely places are the ones that stick with us the most.

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