Thursday, December 16, 2010
I try to get to know all the people I work with, including the people who come through and take out the trash, clean the bathrooms or deliver packages. I'm usually chatting with them about the weather, or the latest sports game (it's pretty much a given that everyone is a 76ers, Phillies, Flyers or Eagles fan). Even if I don't know their names, I always try to say "Hi" and ask them about their day, since after a while, you begin to at least recognize people around the building. For the last few years, I've become friends with Stanley, a middle aged, gray haired man who performs janitorial services around our floor every night. He usually comes through around 6pm, and I always get a big smile and a little conversation from him every night. He's from Poland, moved to Philly quite some time ago. He has two daughters, who are both grown and quite successful. He got the job here at Penn in order to put his daughters through "good school", one is now a lawyer, and the other is an executive. He got so excited when I told him Alex and I are getting married. I think he wants grandkids of his own, and perhaps I remind him of his daughters just a bit. He talks a lot about his little dog, who's getting older and just likes to sit by the heater now that the weather is colder. He tells me about his wife's cooking kielbasa with vodka, and the decorations he's put on the tree and around the house. Last year, during the "Snowpocalypse" when we got over 3 feet of snow in a matter of 48 hours, Stanley was the first to volunteer to stay at Penn overnight to make sure the walks were shoveled and the streets were safe for the students to walk on. He ended up getting stuck with a shovel and a huge pile of snow, but I don't think that deterred him in the least. He's not afraid of hard work, even though he's getting older and should likely let some of the younger boys do the hard work. Yesterday, he reminded me of something even more important. I remarked about the cold weather, he remarked back that things weren't too bad. I remarked back something about it being a loooong winter. And then he looked directly at me and he reminded me how lucky we are. We work in heated buildings, we have heated homes and cars. I remarked back, "But, Stanley, I don't have a car!". And he said, yes, but that's YOUR choice. There are a lot of people who don't even have heated homes or homes for that matter, or warm clothes or warm food or a decent pair of socks. Considering he came from Poland, and I can't imagine what things were like for him growing up, I really took this to heart. I feel so lucky to have the things that I have, the conveniences, the transportation when I need it. The heat, the fancy shoes and coat to block out the wind. It's hard to imagine there are people freezing out there, but there are. And it's a feeling, according to Stanley, you will never forget. So, I'm thankful for Stanley, for putting this Christmas rush and madness (mail this, package that, wrap that -wait, it's not enough! blah, blah, blah) into a bit of perspective. We are such lucky people as Americans. So lucky it's hard to fathom. Thank you, Stanley, for that reminder. I needed it.