Why I can never be a Janitor

It was almost 2 pm. It had been a long day and I was ready to go home.

However, when I reached the main lobby of the building, a polite lady stopped me and said, “Hey, we just had a conference and all this food on the table wasn’t used. Feel free to take some.”

I helped myself to a bagel, a can of soda and some salad. The fare was fresh, warm and delicious.While munching on my bagel smothered in cream cheese, I asked the lady, who was leaving by then, about what would happen to all the food.

“Spread the word around. Anyone who wants it can have it.” And she promptly turned and went on her way.

A few minutes later, a couple of boys passed through the hallway. I asked them if they would like some food. They each grabbed a can of soda and continued walking to wherever it was that they were going.

And then, a team of students and teachers came. They were here to set up things for a conference they had organized and which was to begin in an hour.

One of the teachers called the Janitor.

“Jake, can you please make sure that all this food is taken away from these tables. I’ve ordered food for our conference and we need the tables for that.”

I went up to the lady and said to her that maybe all of this food could also be offered to her delegates. It seemed like a waste to throw away three platters of sandwiches, two bowls of salad and two platters of bagels, not to mention the three platters of cold cuts, cheese slices and scrambled  eggs. The worst part. All of this was untouched and still covered with cellophane.


“I know honey, but I can’t use this food. Sorry.” That was all she said.

I looked at the Janitor. His expression was resigned.

“Can you do something about this food. So many people go hungry each day. Can’t some organization take this?” I asked, hoping he’d have an answer for me.

“I know what you’re thinking.  Trust me, young lady, I throw copious amounts of such perfectly good food pretty much after every conference, lecture and event. I would like to be able to do something. But ours is a wasteful nation.”

I saw him bring his trolley, to unceremoniously dump all that food in a jumbled, messy heap, that would then be tossed into bin bags.

All might have been lost at that point, were it not for a senior professor who had quietly noticed the exchange.

“Wait,” He said to us.

“I’ll bring my car here. You can help me load all this food into it. I will drop it off at the Salvation Army.”

I saw the janitor’s eyes light up. And I knew in that moment, that I could never have the heart to be one.


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