This past week my husband and I celebrated 34 years of marriage. Our children are either married or away at college so we are still adjusting to the empty nest syndrome. We threw caution to the wind and left for one night away at Frankenmuth, MI (Little Bavaria as it's commonly referred to). If you've never visited Frankenmuth you really need to Google it and then go for a visit. There's the traditional homemade chicken dinners with yummy sides of buttered noodles, mashed potatoes with the occasional lump just so you know it's real, stuffing, veggies, soup, assorted salads and breads, and then finally you top off the meal with a small dish of soft serve ice cream, but always topped with a plastic camel, mermaid, or figurine rather than a cherry. It's a time-honored tradition.
On this visit we had a terrific waitress named Jan. She was strong (especially when she lifted the heavy trays), but a real people person. We were one of her final tables for the night so we weren't in any sort of hurry. We started chatting about life, people, problems with the world, and ways the world could be a better place. Jan is not just a waitress at the world famous Zehnder's restaurant, Jan is also an 8th grade U.S. History teacher at an inner-city school. She is passionate about her job and really wants to make a difference; one student at a time. As we chatted we discovered she'd had one student who was 15 years old and was being tried as an adult for murder. She also had a student who was finding his way out of his predetermined life and was receiving a full scholarship to MSU. Jan had seen the full scope of possibilities and downturns in this school district, yet she is still driven and passionate about making a difference; one student at a time. Along the way she teaches life lessons; what is acceptable and what's not, manners, and respect. You need to take pride in whatever you do and give it your all. You will never be given respect if you don't first respect yourself.
We couldn't help but ask why, after a long stressful day at school, she was moonlighting at a very busy restaurant in the evenings. The answer was clear; one that we hear way too often in today's society. The teachers in her school district had taken a 9% pay cut to help with a budget deficit. There are often many misconceptions about teachers. Sure there are some who've been in the system long enough that they are making decent money, but many teachers today (with both bachelor and master degrees) are not making a fraction of what they should. Of course, people will say it's an EASY job and you get summers off. Sure an average teacher has 6-8 weeks off during the summer, but many teach summer classes, continue to tutor, take on outside summer jobs, coach sport teams, teach driver's education, etc.
In Jan's case she took on the 2nd job year round as a waitress so she could still keep up with her mortgage. My son and daughter-in-law are also teachers. I know MANY teachers that attend my church. Teaching is a job that demands respect; they have a great deal of responsibility in helping to raise our children. We've been blessed to have had some amazingly devoted teachers pass through our children's lives over the years; teachers that made a HUGE impact.
So how did we leave the evening? We'd gained some insights into a common problem, we listened to someone else's perspective that we didn't know, and we left a sizable tip as a thank you (that sparred a whole new conversation). Jan didn't take anything for granted and was extremely thankful.
Not every blog post will have the promise of a hidden gem of intuition that is priceless, but that's life ... no guarantees. I write about real life ... my life. I write about what I know and what I observe and hope that others can connect to it. The moral of this post? When you take pride in yourself and your work, the respect will come. Do the right things first and foremost for yourself and hope that others recognize your diligence.