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.