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Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Beautiful Soul


Rule #1 of teaching: Make friends with the custodians.

I was thinking about this golden rule, because I heard some sad news yesterday. Miguel M, a former co-worker of mine from Arizona, passed on two weeks ago, after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was a delightful man, and yet another reason why Orange Grove Middle School remains a special place in my memory.

Miguel was the head custodian. He could fix or clean pretty much anything. He put up with all of my shenanigans, even when it involved extra-dirty chalkboards or  constantly evolving seating arrangements. He had an easy laugh, and an ever-present grin.

Miguel had a giving heart. He served in the military in some function. He had children who were quite successful, and he worked hard to support their endeavors. He coached after-school sports, including flag football, and his passion, soccer. He found the kids who were right on the perimeter, and subtly mentored them, giving them tasks, or letting them drive The Gator across the athletic fields.

One morning, I saw a kid throw a bag of chips on the floor. I asked him to pick it up, and reminded him that the janitors shouldn't have to clean up after him. He sneered and said, "Isn't that their job?"

I replied, "Would you say that to Coach Moreno's face?"

The bravado dropped from his face, as he realized that "the help" had cheered him from the sidelines, helped him with his kick, and had probably paid more attention to him than his workaholic parents. "No," he mumbled, and picked up the bag.

I won't say that I was close buddies with Miguel, but I will say that his whole presence taught me to work hard, care about people, and enjoy doing both.

One of my favorite memories of Miguel came when I took a part-time job after school as the Community Schools director. It was my job to keep all the after-school clubs running and help close the building each evening. I was always there until 6:00, so I saw more of Miguel and his crew then some.

One evening, I heard raucous Tejano music blasting from the cafeteria. I walked over, and saw Miguel and another custodian mopping the floors. They danced as they mopped, talking in Spanish over the horns and accordions. I waved, and Miguel waved his hand, beckoning me to join in the dance. I shook my head and smiled, letting him enjoy his moment.

What a beautiful soul.

I feel like I want to do something, so let's try this: For every comment made about this posting (either on this blog, or on Facebook), I will donate $2 to the American Cancer Society. Let's do some good for Miguel.

19 comments:

Judy Mohrman said...

Love it. I'll match you. Mom

Corrie Howe said...

I'd comment even without the incentive. I love the custodians at my kids' school. They always make it a point to greet me by name. They can be seen hugging and cheering on the kids throughout the day.

One of the custodians died instantly in a heart attack one summer. It was very hard on all the staff and children in the school

Tom Mohrman said...

Here's to acquaintances that change you forever and you didn't even know it. RIP.

Carla said...

Thank you for being such a bright shining human being. I am so glad that Lisa introduced me to your blog. I really relate to your writing style. Thanks you for sharing.

Lang said...

That is a beautiful story. I think simple, often unnoticed things matter quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

It's often the little things that leave impressions on us. God bless you and Miguel's family.

Gretchen said...

What a nice way to remember him and help others.

Melani said...

What a great post! We often times forget how others have touched our lives until it is too late. It sounds like he was an awesome person and touched the lives of everyone he came across....I think only a small percentage of people do this, and I believe he was one of those! :)

Coby Goesling said...

I remember when I started at OG, one of the pieces of advice you gave me was to make friends with Miguel and the custodians. I love the way you wrote about him and captured how gentle and sincere he was (and flippin' funny, too!)

Anonymous said...

I'll always remember Mr. Elko from Weaver Elementary in Pgh!

Becky said...

There are so many people touched by cancer. I think you have chosen a great way to honor your friend!

Anonymous said...

It is so sad to hear about anyones loss to cancer....My thoughts are with you and his Family.

won said...

I applaud you for doing this.

I am commenting in my honor of my late daughter, who passed away from brain cancer.

It struck me when I was reading the comments here and Coby said "I remember when I started at OG...".

OG are my daughters first two initials.

In honor of Olivia Grace...with gratitude for you for making this donation.

Erin Lutz said...

Great post, and a great idea!

Ami said...

What a beautiful tribute to Miguel!

Heather in Texas said...

Leaving a comment!

Anonymous said...

School is ever so interesting...it is true that the custodians are your best friends!

Kelly said...

For Olivia Grace...

Mommy's Musings said...

Very touching! (on a lighter note...)Can I hire you now to do my eulogy? :)