This I Believe

Francis - Marrero, Louisiana
Entered on January 13, 2008

I believe in the people who sweep and mop floors in public places and I beleieve their work to be indispensible. I believe in the people who bath the residents in nursing or health care facilities and patients in hospitals and I believe they are essential in preserving human dignity. I believe in the people who interrelate with those who are disenfranchised or marginalized. I believe in their willingness to be with those whom most of us keep at a far distance.

I am inspired to write this essay because of what I heard in a report on the national news. It was a representative of the theatre owners and producers addressing the strike on Broadway. He was questioning the salary of the stagehands, who sweep and mop stages.

Maybe, the salary is excessive, I really do not know. What I do know without the folks who clean, for instance, the bathrooms in the theatres of Broadway and everywhere, they would smell wretched. Cleanliness, hygiene, and health would all be in perilous jeopardy.

I recall visiting with a friend in Florida. We drove to Miami for a self-directed tour. While driving through one of the posh, pristine, and elte neighborhoods we met up with a Waste Management rig, with its personnel slinging garbage cans into the back of the truck. “O Lord,” I said to my friend, “Garbage and those who collect it, are equalizers.”

Here in New Orleans with our abundance of restaurants, by necessity, we have a significant number of people who wash pots and pans after our famed chefs and the demand for personnel who wash dishes so that more guests can enjoy our wonderful cuisine is high. How well they are compensated, I can only imagine! I wonder if restaurant-goers give a thought to the persons who do what is often termed, “menial labor.”

After experiencing my mother’s sister living the last and 92nd year of her life in a health care facility, needing diapers changed due to loss of memory and bodily function I now can say this I believe… all of the people who do the nasty, dirty, unsavory and >few want to do tasks< are SACRED. I believe they are sacred because they are a kind of sacrament carrying a truth, namely, the human condition implies leaving messes, generating dirt, and creating waste. They daily face our messes, dirt and waste gathering them into a hopefully safe place or recycling them for another purpose. These sacred folks keep order, as well as, see to it we all remain sane and healthy. This came into even greater focus after Katrina. All of the folks I described are in my belief sacred, because they call us into the soulful encounter that in the schema of life no one is insignificant, everyone has a purpose and a place. Whenever I think in terms of class, feel I am too intelligent to do certain tasks, seek priviledge or demnand some form of entitlement all of these folks, to me, are present. Their presence equalizes my humanity and brings sobriety to my thoughts and feelings.