Monday, May 16, 2016

A Lesson in Community

It's 7:08 pm on Monday, May 16, 2016. I have just arrived five minutes late for my shift and taken a seat at the front desk of Caddo Hall for my last closing shift of the school year.

Before this, I took a shower because I just finished (with the help of a few students) taking out all of the trash in our building.  Today has been a tough one; with turmoil in my personal life and packing to move to Shreveport, I am wearing thin. Yet none of that matters in my job, because my job is not about me, and some days I have to put on a strong face.

Graduation is this Saturday, and people are packing their rooms and starting to move out. We just came off of the weekend, so the trash has not been pulled since Friday morning. Our housekeeper was out today, and the trash removal part of the world stopped spinning. Unfortunately, the trash making part of the world was going at a faster rate than usual.

As I came in from the sprinkling rain this evening, sweaty from hurling bags of trash into the dumpster with a small group of teenage girls, I realized that I could not remember a single day during the school year that our housekeeper has ever taken off. In nearly three years, I do not recall her missing a day of work. When she was gone today, I felt it. The floors need to be mopped. There are small pieces of garbage scattered near the entrance of our building because several of the heavy bags busted, and we had to wrestle trash into a second bag to get the trash to the dumpster. I left the trash there.

Exasperated, I wondered aloud, "How do we do this without a housekeeper?"

A few years ago, we were without a housekeeper for what seemed like forever but was probably just a few weeks. Kristy, the Coordinator of Residence Life before me, bribed the students with pizza to mop the floors and pull the trash. We made it through, but somehow it seems worse today. Maybe it's because I'm in charge. Perhaps it's because people are moving out and making what feels like actual tons of trash.

The answer to my question is, of course, something I knew: we are a community, and everybody has a role. I am accustomed to everyone doing their part and pulling their share of the weight, and generally things run smoothly around here. I have been incredibly blessed to work in a place where people feel like they are part of a community, and when they are gone, their absence is felt. It is extremely humbling to recognize that I cannot do my job without the help of others and without other people pulling their weight. Even after years in the residence hall, I cannot hold this monster down myself. We have to work together to do our best.

Moreover, my role is one dedicated to service to others. I am required each day to put aside whatever is bothering me or going on in my personal life to be a support system for people who need it. Sometimes that means being the parent, but other times I am the cheerleader. There are days when I am given the confidence of students going through terrible troubles and others where I celebrate amazing achievements with extremely talented young men and women. I am a resource, a helper, and an ally. (Some days, I am better at these roles than others.)

Even before I arrived in Louisiana and on the campus of LSMSA, I have felt the embrace of family and community about which our school loves to boast. Whenever I've needed it, I've had my questions answered and been given a helping hand. I have been supported by my students, my coworkers, my boss, and countless others in our community. There are so many things I love about this place, and they have all made my decision to leave incredibly difficult...most days. Even though I wish our housekeeper had not been sick today--for her sake and mine--her absence inadvertently reminded me of how much it has meant to me to be part of our community and how fortunate I have been to work in such a supportive environment. I will sorely miss this place.

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