Thursday, 16 February 2017

When Lawyers Wash your Clothes

"Get rid of that floating pile of spit. That's disgusting!" He spat his own words out. The pool attendant simply nodded his head and fetched a pole to remove the offending puddle. It was the first time in Manila that I had seen an obvious display of class difference. But there it was. One man felt he had the right to order another man around.

Years ago when I lived on a mission ship, we were assigned jobs to keep the ship life running smoothly. My job was to wash clothes and clean toilets. Fair enough really. I had taken a year out of my studies in Psychology to join the crew and I wasn't really qualified to do anything in particular. One of my fellow cleaner/washer mates, however, had taken time out of her established career as a lawyer to work with this crew. And I did not hear her complain once.

It was interesting to watch new people join the ship and look at us in a particular way...until they had a chance to spend a day in our department, which would happen from time to time. Their level of gratitude and respect would always grow after that. It's human nature, it seems, for us to assign each other to different classes, sometimes just from the label on our t-shirt.

I've never forgotten what it felt like to be 'classed' and often as I bump into people in service roles I make a point to say thank-you. In those words I hope they will also hear "You and I are equal and I don't take it for granted that you are working so hard to make life a little nicer for me." And to the man in the pool that day, in the nicest possible way I hope you will have a chance to walk in someone else's shoes and maybe one day you too will say thank-you.

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