Western society worships at the altar of position. Whether it be business, religion, government, or academia, the guy at the top gets the spotlight.
That leaves someone else, someone more important, in the dark.
Once I had a half-day layover in London. I caught a train, went downtown to wander around. I did not know where I was going but stumbled onto what I wanted to see—Westminster Abbey.
The Abbey is majestic. When you walk its halls, you see the “greats” of Western civilization. Kings, scientists, and authors find their final resting place there. Queen Elizabeth is buried foot-to-foot with her nemesis on earth, Mary, Queen of Scots.
I stood in awe of the power of the place.
Then, as I start to walk, I got lost. I ended up in a hallway off the main hall. Nobody important here, I thought.
In the floor are graves from before 1000 A.D. One of those is from 976. He was a janitor of the Abbey.
I thought, “Here lies a simple sweeper of floors amidst kings and giants ”
Someone thought to recognize the majesty of simpleness.
Our world overlooks so many people. Think about the people you meet everyday, simple people. Secretaries answer phones. Waitstaff endures pushy and sometimes rude customers. Uber drivers take in people and hope for the best. Grocery clerks scan items.
Imagine what life would be without such people? The rich and powerful would be paralyzed. The average American ’s life would halt because the unknowns were not there to do their job.
Do you take time to recognize them?
I have a friend who, when she orders food at a counter, always asks the person serving for his or her name. “I like to do business with people I know,” is her reason. She has taken the faceless and made them human.
It is such a simple thing but such a powerful statement. People are not things, but people. When we overlook the ones easily overlooked, we destroy a little more of our society.
When the people doing the serving no longer serve, we no longer live. That’s how vital the overlooked become to us, whether we recognize it or not.
A story is told (probably apocryphal) of a college professor distributing final exams. The professor said, “Before you turn your paper over and begin, I have a few things to say. First, this counts for half of your grade. Second, once you finish the exam, you may leave. Now, you may turn over your paper and begin.”
On the paper was a single question. “What is the name of the man who cleans this classroom that you see every day?”
Would you pass or fail that class?
Someone went to the trouble to make the final resting place of a janitor Westminster Abbey. Surely, we can take time to take notice of the overlooked and appreciate what they do.