One at a time, they filed nervously up to the speaker’s podium. With shaky voices, they began their list of thank yous . . . To parents, grandparents, friends, the headmaster, teachers, janitor. Wait a minute . . . The janitor? Not that being a janitor isn’t an extremely crucial and honorable profession. I’ve just never heard one thanked in a public ceremony before.
I was invited by a fellow teacher to an annual observance that draws a crowd of friends and family members – Valedictory Service. I thought it odd on this particular occasion that so many of the soon-to-be-graduated seniors would acknowledge their janitor. Not only did they thank him for keeping the school clean, they also thanked him for being their friend and for listening when they needed to talk. From their descriptions of him, he appeared more along the lines of a counselor than a person who sweeps and mops floors, empties trash, and cleans up messes.
And in fact, I heard he was more than that at one time until a disabling stroke removed him from his employment of choice and placed him square in the middle of three hundred noisy-and often messy, students. But he took it all in stride . . . I also gathered that he always had a smile . . . always a moment to stop sweeping long enough to joke with a kid or have a serious talk with a student who prefers him over a teacher or the headmaster.
As I listened to three-fourths of the graduating class give thanks to this employee, I leaned over and said jokingly to the headmaster, also a friend, “He’s getting more credit than the teachers. Maybe he’s in the wrong spot.” But then again maybe he’s not. Were he a teacher, he couldn’t be as chummy with the students lest he lose their respect. Nor could he stop just any time he wanted for a hallway counseling session. So perhaps he’s in the right position after all.
I suppose the headmaster reached the same conclusion I had about this man. When the seniors finished their goodbyes and tributes, he mounted the stage and invited the prized janitor to join him. He proceeded to thank him in front of the entire school for being more than just a custodian. In essence, he thanked him for shining where he was even though it might not initially have been his employment of choice. The final tribute to this humble servant of God-who never gets enough credit for what he does, was a standing ovation. He never said a word in response. Just smiled that big smile-and perhaps thanked everyone under his breath, walked off the stage, and in a matter of moments changed back into his work clothes and saddled his broom and mop. He didn’t have time for accolades. He had more shining to do.
Jesus challenged his followers to imitate the actions of this modest servant of God. “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16 NLT).
I admit-I’ve not always enjoyed shining where God has placed me. At least not as much as this man. Sometimes I am not excited about some work I am called upon to do. But I’ve learned that where God puts me is not the most important matter in my life’s puzzle . . . It’s what I make of where he puts me. Making good use of every life situation-or predicament, entails shining for him. And when I shine others will notice the One who enables me to shine whether I’m in dire straits or pleasant places- just like the students noticed the man’s acts of kindness more than they noticed what he did with brooms and mops. Whether I’m pushing a broom, emptying trash cans, changing diapers in Sunday school, teaching students, or sitting behind a leather desk on the 50th floor of an office building making life changing decisions won’t matter. Remember Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
So go ahead . . . Shine where God puts you rather than complain about it not being what you’d rather do. You never know . . . You might be influencing an entire school or nation.