I’ve worked with our head custodian for over 25 years. We have traded sports stories, enjoying a rivalry. Mike is a straight up Broncos fan, a straight up Colorado sports fan, but he’s a straight up honest guy about sports.
He gives credit where credit is due.
He likes me even though I’m a Pats fan.
He understands to the deepest level how exciting it was when the Red Sox won the world series...finally, in 2004.
Our lives have intersected daily for years, and these interactions have been casual, polite, and filled with the mutual respect of co-workers.
Fast forward to 2010, when Dan joined the staff at Westview. Dan and Mike hit the ground running with understanding and sports rivalry camaraderie and a deep mutual respect and that male bonding of ribbing. The Monday morning quarterbacks.
Over the years, Dan and Mike hit it off more and more, and I got that fallout of favor, so that our relationship, between Mike and me, grew.
Once, only once, Mike and I had a tiff. I’d not communicated with him and his custodial staff about my upcoming drama event. I put them in a hard situation. He called me on it. But I was stressed out about the whole thing, and when he barked at me, I cried. Not in front of him, but later, when I was feeling so overwhelmed and sad that I’d made other’s work more difficult.
That next day, Mike walks in my room with a Patriot’s football and an apology.
How hard that must have been for him to buy a Patriots football! And I was the one who was mostly in the wrong. That gruff guy showed his compassion to me, and that football is a deep treasure.
When we went into quarantine, Dan and I did not return to Westview until we came back to school in August. Mike watered our plants (and we have a lot of plants!), and he took care of Dan’s fish tank.
We were back here for a month before I realized something small that Mike did, that I hadn’t noticed. And when I say it was small. I mean. It was gigantic. A small thing that meant so much to me.
I was in a space where I came in to teach online and then left. I planned at home, did most of my work at home at night. I didn’t pay attention to my classroom space.
Mike’s daughter works at King Soopers, and she shared with Mike, who shared with me, that his daughter has seen the best of humanity and the worst of it, working in retail.
We talked about how we have to focus on the best of humanity, and the small gifts, the gifts of nature and of humanity.
So, here is my story of the best of humanity.
When I finally paid attention to my space to get it ready for students, I saw something so beautiful.
Before quarantine in March, I’d put a few plant cuttings in a cup to have them root, so I could re-pot them. Just last week, I looked down at a corner, buried behind my dish rack, and those cuttings were still there, in that cup.
The cup was filled with water.
The cuttings had new growth.
Mike had watered my cuttings. And he hadn’t just watered them for the five months we were gone.
He’d watered them while I was in my myopic space, ignoring my classroom, focusing only on my online teaching.
Mike had to be at school from March on. Had to be there with no students, no teachers. Administration and their boss (I mean secretary) was there, but no life in the classrooms or the hallways. He saw papers in classrooms turning yellow and folding up at the edges.
But he kept everything alive.
Mike, your work, especially down to caring for my cuttings, is the best of humanity.