Something strange happened to me the other day.
I was in the airport bathroom en route to Phoenix when two Latino ladies approached me. One was older with lines of age marking her face and hints of grey about her forehead. She was dressed in some heavy clothing for August and had a work apron on top of it all.
The other was younger, her wide black eyes more pronounced by the smoothness of her skin. A loose patterned sweatshirt hung about her over black leggings.
They spoke quickly in Spanish to one another as they approached me with some hesitation. The young woman said, “She would like for you to leave a comment.”
I scrunched my brow, unsure of what she meant. “You want what?” I asked.
“Senora, Senora, ” the older one said. She raced back over to a janitorial cart and brought back a stack of napkins. On one of them, someone had written some words in Spanish in a lovely, cursive font.
“See, see.” The woman pushed the napkin closer to me, keeping an expectant gaze. I stood dumbfounded, unable to read it. My one year of language class was not paying off.
“She wants you to write a comment,” the younger one spoke again, “of this place.” She held out her hands. “Of her work.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, finally grasping the meaning. The older woman laid down a new napkin eagerly, placing the previous one close by for an example.
“Olga,” she said, pointing to herself. Her smile brightened as I uncapped the pen and started to write.
When I handed it back, she thanked me repeatedly and then went right back to work, wiping all the counters down even though they were already clean.
I’ve thought back on this interaction in several passing moments now. And what I always circle back to is the woman’s sheer joy for the comment. She had no idea whether I would write something good or bad. But yet she seeked it all the same – language barrier or not.
And I could see her dedication to the job, too. Cleaning bathrooms is not a pleasant job – and the ones at the airport are nowhere near the top of the easy list. But here she was, so motivated and happy. Utterly happy.
And then I think about my own job and how a day with an emotion like that is nonexistent. I would never ask for a comment card for the fear of making the day that much worse. But why is it like that? Why shouldn’t I seek the same joy?