I work in an office three days a week. As is typical in those buildings, a cleaning lady comes by once a day to empty our garbage and recycling containers and to clean the washrooms. Once a week she washes the kitchen floor. She vacuums on Thursdays.
Over the past ten months, I’ve learned a bit about her life. We chat when she comes by. She and her husband are both immigrants to Canada. She appears to me to be in her fifties. This lady is a lovely, kind soul. She smiles as she goes about her day, cleaning up after others. She calls me sweetheart when I thank her for emptying my containers.
Her husband has a heart condition and has a pace maker. Before Christmas, her husband had a heart attack and was in hospital. Not good news. I was happy for them when she told me that he had been released from the hospital and was back home.
He had a stroke in late December and is still in the hospital. Over the last six weeks, she has been balancing her time between work and being with him. She heads to the hospital after work to visit, goes home around 10:00 pm and is back at work for 7:00 am.
My heart sank last week when she told me that the hospital staff had called to tell her that it was only a matter of time. She spent most of the weekend with him. He rallied – “he’s a strong man”, she told me. The prognosis isn’t good.
Last Thursday morning – vacuuming day – I overheard these curt words.
“OK. Thank you. That’s enough.”
It was one of the other consultants. It was clear from the tone of his voice that her work was bothering him.
He said five words. Five words that made it sound like she was less than. That her work was somehow not as important as whatever it was that he was doing.
I had to wonder how he would have behaved if he knew what was going on in her life. If he took the time once in a while to simply ask her how she was doing.
We all face struggles and challenges in life. We can support each other through those times, perhaps without realizing it. All we need to do is be kind. It goes a long way.