Thank you, oh thank you, Lincoln School in Spring Valley, Illinois! Your superb and inspiring decision has stopped me, for the moment at least, from seeking species reassignment surgery. My membership in the human race has been an embarrassment to be of late, and I had been seeking alternatives. You give me hope.
Spring Valley’s Lincoln School gymnasium held a day of appreciation this week for custodian Edward “Red” Nestler, 88, who will retire on June 30. To his surprise, Red did not receive just a free lunch, or a watch, or a jacket, or a plaque in appreciation and commemoration of his many years with the school, a journey that began when he was a student there in the 1930s. On his “day,” Red learned that the school board, responding to a petition from students and staff, had voted to name the school gymnasium in his honor.
In so many offices and institutions across the country, the workers who do the unglamorous jobs of keeping buildings inhabitable, safe and functioning are virtually invisible, and when they leave, retire or die, quickly forgotten. Yet their lives are important and have significance. What these workers do is essential, and how they do it matters. Nestler “did everything,” principal Kim Lisanby-Barber told reporters. “If he thinks the weather’s bad, he’ll come over here and check to make sure everything’s all right with the school. He goes above and beyond the call of duty… When the teachers raise chicks here, he makes sure to come in on the weekend and check the thermometer in the incubator.”
All around us, every day, are fellow citizens who do the hard, sometimes dirty, always underpaid jobs that make business, commerce, and daily life possible. We thank our soldiers, celebrate our firefighters and salute out teachers, but seldom give a second thought to our janitors, custodians and cleaning staff. Lincoln School could have named its gym after a prominent alumnus, or a local sports hero, or a rich donor. Instead, it used the honor to say to a man who dedicated his entire life to the school, saying,
” You made a difference. Your life and your work had meaning, and you will be remembered. Thank you, Red, from the bottom of our hearts.”
Wonderful. I hope it starts a trend. If it doesn’t, I may be a platypus this time next year.