Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Krewe of Clean Up ...

During the emergency, there is opportunity for true heroism.  The person who runs towards the sound of the guns, rather than running away.  The person who jumps into the canal to save the drowning child.  The person who braves the impending explosion to pull free the man pinned in the burning car.

We celebrate these people.  We idolize them.  We throw galas and ticker tape parades.  We honor them with medals and certificates of appreciation and put their names on plaques.  This is right.  That is how it is supposed to be.
But what happens when the countdown is over, the aerospace engineers have all dropped their coffee cups on the floor, when everybody is clapping the heroes on the shoulder, buying them drinks, and celebrating the win?  Who is left behind, cleaning up the coffee cups?

God bless the janitors.

I don't necessarily mean janitors in a strictly literal sense.  (Although I am a fan of them, too).  What I am talking about is the cadre of people who do the work once the cameras have stopped filming, and there is nothing sexy about the work.  The people who figure out where to dispose of the demolition debris from the buildings destroyed from a disaster.  Those who file the financial paperwork to make sure that emergency contractors get paid. Those who fix the streets. 

In my agency, the people who worked tirelessly after Katrina to meet the challenge were awesome.  They logged countless hours (literally.... nobody has succeeded in counting them). Many came home after logging 16 hour days to work at rebuilding their own homes, destroyed in the storm.  They took on an impossible deadline, and met it through enormous effort.

And we celebrated their effort.  They received accolades and temporary promotions and many have moved on to greener pastures.

But then there is the janitoral work.  Those who fill out the paperwork and finish the environmental compliance left over from the get-r-done mentality.  Yes, it was critical to get-r-done.  But my heart is with the janitoral staff that stayed to do the clean-up.

One of my favorite short animation sketches came during the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.  They had all of the progression of characters, loud music being played, characters dancing; pure joy. 

And at the tail end of the parade is the guy with the janitor's broom, sweeping up elephant dung and hay from the street.

This is who we need to celebrate.

Thursday, May 7th is Roast Leg of Lamb Day. And the Kazakh "Defender of the Fatherland" Day.  Otherwise, it doesn't get much respect. 

Let's make it Janitor's Day.  For the guys who clean up the stadium.  For the ones who stay after the space shuttle has launched.... just to make sure that nobody tomorrow will slip on a coffee cup.

For those who help do the accounting on the day after GiveNOLA (it's not too late to make a donation, by the way!)

Let's celebrate them.  Buy them a beer.  Clap them on the shoulder, and tell them, "Well Done!"


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