Wednesday 26 Oct 2016

Humble Pie
M Adam Roberts

It is great, to be great, but even greater, to be great, with great, humility.

I know this sounds like a wise, old saying, from some important being, that once walked upon this earth, but it's not. These words of wisdom, are from me! I just made them up!

Pretty cool, don't you think?

These are words, straight from my heart. They come from a lesson, I once learned from an elderly man, who resided at a retirement village, where I once worked as a maintenance man.

I've always been a very competitive person. I like to win! I like coming in, first place. I like being considered, by others, to be, the best, of the best, in my field.

I've always desired to be a champion. I've always wanted others to look at what I've accomplished, and say, "Wow! That's amazing! What a remarkable guy! He's the best I've ever seen!"

Let's face it. It makes us feel good to be noticed. It makes us feel good to be praised, and honored, and appreciated, by others. It boosts our confidence. It raises our self esteem. It encourages us, to try, and do, even better.

So, it's a good thing, right? What's wrong with wanting to be recognized, by others, for the great works, we do?

My personal opinion, and answer to this question, is that it is not, myself , that performs any good work, in this body. It is the spirit of goodness that dwells, within me, that performs the good work. My body, is just a vessel, of that spirit.

With every deed, I perform, I must decide which spirit I will yield my members to serve. If I am to receive any credit , at all, it should only be for yielding myself to the right spirit.

Truly, that is the only credit I deserve, and even the ability to do that, is a gift from above. Even the ability to do that, is not of myself. So, ultimately, I deserve no credit, for anything, at all.

I haven't always had this understanding. I haven't always believed this way. It is something I have learned, along the way, of life's journey.

I'd like to share a story with you, about a piece of, Humble Pie, I was once served, by an elderly gentleman. It was this piece of pie, that started me down the road, to understanding, that true greatness, lies within the humble heart, and not within the prideful.

About 10 years ago, I was working, as a maintenance man, at a retirement village, in Clearwater, Florida. I was assigned to maintain a large building, that housed 100 senior, condominiums, within it.

My building, was only one, of one hundred buildings, on the complex. It was a huge retirement village, called 'On Top of The World.'

The seniors , who resided in the building, which I maintained, adopted me as their own. They loved me like a son. Every day they would bring me snacks, and drinks, and gifts. They looked forward to seeing me arrive, for work each morning.

I was like family, to them. They worried about me, whenever I didn't come in to work. They wondered if I was ever coming back. It worried them, that they might lose me, someday. Seeing me, was an important part of their day. They depended on me being there.

I loved the seniors, too. I cared about them. I wanted, more than anything, to maintain their building, better than any other building, in the complex. I wanted them to be proud of where they lived. It was their final, retirement home. They had worked long, and hard, to get there. I didn't want them to regret having purchased a home, there. I wanted their building to sparkle, and shine, and it did.

I worked my fingers to the bone, scrubbing, and shining, every square inch of the place. Every needed repair was fixed, immediately, if possible. I maintained the landscape, above and beyond, what I was required to do. I invested my own money, into plants, and trees, so the yard would look beautiful, for them. I wanted them to be happy, in their retirement years. They knew I did, and they loved me for it. They did every thing they could, to show their appreciation towards me, everyday.

One day, a retired minister, came outside his apartment, to watch me prune a small tree. He complimented on what a fine job I was doing. He told me that was the best the tree had ever looked, in the many years that he had been living there.

I thanked him, for his compliment, and continued working, determined, to leave the tree looking perfect, before walking away from it.

As I worked, the elderly man continued to praise me. He told me how happy all the residents were to have me there. He said I was the talk of place, and that everyone was so afraid that I would quit. He explained that they had a real hard time keeping a decent maintenance man, over the years. He told me that in the past 10 years, they had probably been through, near, 50 of them.

The job only paid minimum wage, and required a lot of work, for the money. The workers, that did stick around, awhile, did no more work than they were required too, and they did it with a bad attitude. They didn't care about the residents. They took no pride in their job. They just showed up for the paycheck.

As he turned, to walk back into his apartment, he stopped, and said something, to me, that I will never forget. He said, 'You are one of the best maintenance men we've ever had, in the 20 years that I have lived here. There was only one other, that even compares to you. He was an older fella, named Mr. Jones. He was just like you, in how he took care of the place. He took such pride in his job, and everyone loved, and appreciated him, just like we do you.'

I enjoyed hearing all the nice things the man was saying to me. It was nice to know that I was appreciated. It was nice to hear how much they cared me me. It was flattering to hear that they thought I was the greatest maintenance man they had ever had.

But then he said something that shot me down, in flames! He told me that it was an even match, between myself, and Mr. Jones, concerning who did the better job, but then he added another comment.

'Mr. Jones, was such a humble man. A very, very humble man.'

As he said this, his face glowed with admiration, for the man. I could see that he had the highest respect, humanly possible, for this person. I could see, that if he would've had to make a choice, at that moment, between who was the greatest maintenance man ever, he would've chosen, Mr. Jones, over me, because of his great humility.

This was hard for me to take! I wanted to be the greatest! I didn't want to be second best!

What bothered me even more, was there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't just whip up some quick humility and surpass, Mr. Jones, in the race.

He was the winner, and I, was the runner up.

The older gentleman never told me this, but I could see it on his face. He greatly respected the humility, in Mr. Jones, that I had not learned, or developed yet.

I have never forgotten the words spoken by the elderly minister, that day, or the lesson they taught me.

It is great, to be great, but even greater, to be great, with great humility.

M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.

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