Green River Star -

Western Wyoming Community College 

Lifelong learning: The cleaning lady


April 11, 2018

Someone recently shared a story with me about a custodial worker. In the story, a college professor gave a pop quiz to his students and the last question on the quiz asked, “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” One of the students reported that she remembered the cleaning lady clearly. She knew she was in her 50s, with dark hair and that she was tall, but she didn’t know her name. She asked the instructor if the last question really counted for points on the quiz. The professor told her that it most definitely would count because in all of our careers, we will meet significant people who deserve our attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello”, or “thank you.” After that, the student never forgot Dorothy, the cleaning lady. I am reminded of the saying that goes something like, “The respect you show to others is a reflection on your own self-respect.” Additionally, I believe that saying thank you or taking notice of others and their contribution to life, while costing nothing means everything.

I have two other stories to share. One is the old folk tale “The Little Red Hen,” which many of you will recall. In the story, the red hen finds a grain of wheat and asks for help from the other farm animals to plant it, but they all refuse. At each later stage in the process of growing wheat (harvesting, threshing, milling the wheat into flour and baking the bread) the hen asks for help and again all animals refuse. However, when she asks who would help her eat the bread, they all volunteer quite enthusiastically, as you can imagine, with hot, fresh, homemade bread. She tells them all that since they would not help her, they receive no bread. Just as with real life, if you are not willing to work hard towards the end goal, you will most likely never achieve or receive the benefits you might otherwise. In my life, I have found almost exclusively, that nothing worth having ever comes easy. And as Ann Landers said, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” I would add, that many people will therefore, not pursue them.

One other story to share is that of another old folk story called “Stone Soup.” The tale goes that some travelers came to a village with only an empty cooking pot. The villagers in the town were unwilling to share any food with the travelers, so the travelers got water from a stream, boiled the water and put a large stone in the pot. Some villagers were curious and asked what the travelers were doing, to which the travelers replied that they were making a wonderful ‘stone soup’ which they would be happy to share, although some extra garnish or flavoring might help. One villager shared a few carrots, another handed them some seasoning and a few more each brought an ingredient and dropped it in the soup. When the soup was done cooking, the travelers removed the stone and shared the soup with the villagers, who of course, had been tricked into helping create a wonderful meal. For me, the lesson in this tale is that if we each give a little, we can create so very much.

“Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have,”Jim Rohn said.

Respect, hard work and giving of yourself are huge pillars, or essentials, for success in life. As far as I am concerned, I may not always have a lot of money or my health or other things, but I can always be very rich by being respectful, working hard and giving of myself. And, I believe it is my duty to model this to my children and others in my life.


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