Do you have a fond memory of a school custodian who seemed to have the patience of Job and mystical levels of commitment to keeping all surfaces shiny?

Perhaps he or she was also the person who uncomplainingly saved the day when some kid got sick in the hallway, the person who refereed at basketball games, the person who made all small equipment repairs look like magic?

Who are these Zen masters of multitasking, tolerance, and thankless toil?!

I suspect there’s a reason why janitors are formally called “custodians.” Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about the word custodian:

  • someone who keeps and protects something valuable for another person
  • a person who cleans and takes care of a building 1

Maybe those two things are the same!

Today on EWC we’d like to celebrate the unsung heroes who keep our workplaces and schools pleasantly spotless. Often they work through the night, unnoticed and so we take their work so for granted.

Image: Fiddlehead ferns

Source: Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

But I’d like to offer that our surroundings often define us.

People bring their A-game to sparkling, ordered settings, and conversely, they don’t clean up after themselves when it looks like no one cares.

It’s as simple as that.

In a way, the order and cleanliness of our surroundings can define our state of mind too. Chaos usually breeds chaos. How often have you been in a filthy bathroom, restaurant or building, and made some instant assumptions about the people who use it?

And yet, knowing all that, we barely recognize the unsung heroes who push back the ever-encroaching pressures of filth: our school and building custodians!

Where would we be without them?

So, what do we do to rectify this little corner of injustice?

Some schools and their lucky kids are celebrating these superheroes. Here are a few educational communities that are stepping up in the best way, teaching the students how to be grateful for the people who make our schools work!

Kleenex tissue brand is doing great things, featuring a touching tribute to Mr. Patton, the longtime custodian at the East Nashville elementary school, Lockeland Design Center.

And here’s another wonderful story from HLN on YouTube of kids learning to say, “Thank you!”

Via: HLN 3

And you know the custodians that seem like they might be a sage? They probably are to someone. Take a look at this wonderful spirit, brought to us by CBS Sunday Morning.

Lastly, let’s not forget the people who keep our workplaces spotless, brought to us by USA TODAY.


So now I’m going to practice the art of noticing when I get to work or drop off the kids at school. And if I pass a custodian who’s hard at it, I’m going to thank them, right out of the blue, and make sure they know they are appreciated.

Gratitude is perhaps the most energy efficient emotion. It’s simple to start the ball rolling, and then it becomes self-propelling.

~ Dr. Lynda Ulrich

Have a great day and make someone else’s.

Stay open, curious and hopeful.

~ Dr. Lynda


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  1. “Custodian.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. <>.
  2. A Shining School. Kleenex Brand, 24 Sept. 2915. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. <>.
  3. “School Surprises Janitor with $$.” YouTube. HLN, 07 June 2014. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <>.
  4. “High School Janitor Goes above and beyond.” YouTube. CBS Sunday Morning, 18 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <>.
  5. “What Janitor Does for His Employees Will Inspire You.” YouTube. USA TODAY, 19 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world. Hear her latest conversations with thought leaders on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast--new episodes every Wednesday!