It's the Little Things
Sometimes, it’s the littlest things that mean the most to people. For example, cleaning their windows or sweeping a stair case that never gets swept. If my job has taught me anything this summer, it is this: A kind word doesn’t hurt anyone, and the little things really matter.
A kind word, or saying thank you, even if it seems like it should be obvious, can brighten anyone’s day. I, for example, have been working in the maintenance field over the past few months. Even though I’m getting paid to do things like clean the windows, or sweep a stair case, or mop a floor, or vacuum a room, it still means the world to me that someone would take the time to notice my efforts. Over multiple instances, one particular person has come over to me and told me that what I’m doing makes a difference. He’s bought me multiple drinks at the in house coffee shop. He’s gone out of his way to tell me thank you, for something that I’m getting paid to do.
It is literally my job, and yet he thanks me sincerely every time. Even today, when he asked if I’d clean his windows as well, he came in the most humble way possible. He came on his knees, and asked if I would add his windows onto my normal list. This wasn’t necessary. He could have asked my superior, or said, “Hey, my windows need washing. Take care of it.” Instead, he came through the hallway, on his knees, and in what seemed like a begging manner asked if I would clean his windows. When I said I would, he grabbed my foot and pretended to "kiss my boot," as was the custom back in medieval times. In turn, I gave him a hug and told him he was awesome, and then cleaned his windows.
But all of this goes to show that his kind words throughout the summer, paired with his actions, really made my day. Kind words don’t hurt anyone. In fact, they help both parties. The giver receives the joy of brightening someone else’s day, along with the acknowledgment of something they’re thankful for, and the receiver feels noticed and loved, even for a task as simple as washing a window.
In the same way, a simple thing for me (like washing three extra windows) brightened his day. It was a small thing to me, not a huge task to accomplish, especially when faced with other feats, like mopping a gym alone, or cleaning all of the bathrooms in a building, and yet it showed respect for the person who asked it of me, and it meant that any time they look out their clean windows, they can smile just a little more.
But it’s not just about cleaning the window. It’s also about doing it in such a way that you won’t have to do it again for a while, because you did it so well in the first place. For a window, this means not leaving streaks, or not leaving dirt or other marks. It means making sure you’d be happy looking through it, and making sure that you’re not lowering your standards of excellency for the place you work (especially when there are hundreds of kids around who don’t know better than to open the door by pressing on the glass, therefore leaving a handprint on the window you cleaned moments before. Save a maintenance worker; don’t touch the glass).
Often in life, I find myself saying things like, “Eh, it’s not perfect, but it’ll do.” When cleaning windows, “it’ll do” will not do. If you can see a smudge, everyone else can as well, and so the little things like that matter and reflect on not only your work, but also the building’s reputation. Next time you pass a custodian in the hallway, stop and say thanks. And if you’re the custodian, don’t slouch on your work, because the little things matter, and kind words never hurt.