08 May 2012

The groundskeeper of Boise State

The campus of Boise State University is spectacular this time of year. Spring has definitely arrived. Shrubs, trees and flowers bursting with vibrant, vivid and bold colors—every hue of the rainbow—are displayed against a carpet of green, surrounded by mountains and contrasted with skies so blue, you think you’re in heaven. As finals week approaches and crescendos into commencement and the promise of a bright and fresh tomorrow, faculty and students bustle from here to there, crowding the Quad and every nook and cranny of the campus. The advent of spring brings a sense of renewal and a multitude of possibilities and new beginnings.

Last week, as I was walking across campus, I noticed a groundskeeper busy at work—weeding, preparing the earth and planting flowers. His head was bowed as his strong and weathered hands dug and scooped the soil. I stopped to admire his work and thank him for making the campus such a beautiful and welcoming place. I told him how happy the grounds make me—and so many others—feel.

I was quite moved by his response. Instead of a simple thank you, he stood to his full height and, with a quiet dignity in his voice and a sparkle in his eyes, explained that he enjoyed his work; that adding to the beauty of campus life was important to him and gave him a sense of pride. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

The groundskeeper of Boise State
Like the street sweeper referred to by King, the campus groundskeeper of Boise State is doing his job well. Not only does he find dignity in his work, he brings dignity to his work. He reveals a deep level of self-respect and a sense of accomplishment. His attitude inspires me and makes me want to do better, to leave a footprint of which I can be proud and a legacy of making a difference—to bring my “A” game to each encounter and situation.

To bring dignity to our work, we need to develop daily habits. I try to greet each person I meet with a smile, to be grateful for my blessings, to do something meaningful and to stand for something good. What are your daily habits? What footprint do you wish to leave? What will others say about you—about me—when all is said and done? Will you—will I—be remembered as someone who left an indelible mark and brought dignity to your—to my—work? This is our challenge.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.