There’s only one place on campus where you can find plates littered with half eaten pizza crusts, bowls overflowing with napkins and stacks of cups a mile high. I’m talking, of course, about Susie’s.
We students are good at making messes, as the state of Susie’s clearly illustrates. Food and dishes that make their way to the tables in Susie’s rarely proceed into their proper receptacles. What reason is there to care, it might seem, when the untidiness always clears up sooner or later, as if by magic?
The cold fact is that, contrary to popular belief, there is no magic involved in the daily cleaning of Susie’s. No, this everyday feat of near-miraculous purification is performed by one of the many diligent members of the Paresky Commons staff whom we so often take for granted. By neglecting to clean up after ourselves, we disrespect this critical group of men and women on campus. Relentlessly, these wonderful people prepare our food, preserve a general cleanliness about the building, maintain Susie’s and more. By failing to clean up our own messes, we’re telling the Paresky Commons staff that we do not appreciate the work they do. This lack of appreciation is problematic for many reasons but, at its most elevated level, it shows our failure to understand that Andover staff members who work so hard for us are just as human as we are.
By not taking the tiny amount of time it takes to clean up after ourselves, we illustrate our inability to empathize with the Paresky Commons staff. We fail to consider the ramifications, both emotional and physical, of leaving messes behind. We’ve somehow developed the notion that staff members, be they from OPP, Commons or any other department, have no problem cleaning up our messes. This is terrible. Rarely do we ever consider that we could make things much easier and show a little appreciation for the staff workers here at school simply by being responsible for our own trash. The rudeness that we display when we fail to do so is rooted in our inability to see the staff members as much more than one-dimensional human beings whose sole job it is to clean up for us.
To rectify this issue, we must do more than consistently clear our tables after use. We must take the time to talk to the men and women who make life so easy for us here at school. A little conversation can go a long way. We see these people multiple times a day, several days a week. Really, there’s no excuse for us not to develop relationships with them. While several students enjoy sincere relationships with members of the staff, many others go through their years here without moving beyond a nonverbal relationship with these people.
So, the next time you pass by Paresky Commons workers as they wipe down a table, give them a smile, say thank you. And maybe, if you have time, ask them how their day is going: you’d be surprised how far that simple gesture can go.
I remember a conversation I had once with a member of the staff, after which I could not help but feel moved. The man I spoke with told me about his family, his career and his past. The experiences this man shared with me evoked within me such a newfound awe for the resilience of the human spirit that no faculty member has ever come close to kindling within me. After our conversation was over and the staff member left to collect trash, I felt frustrated. We, as a student body, had neglected this person’s voice, and all for one reason: he was the man with the mop, and we were the one’s making the mess.
It’s time that we clean up our own messes and give the whole staff the respect they deserve.
Makenzie Schwartz is a two-year Lower from Bradford, MA.