Hello and welcome back to Second Chance to Live my friend. I am happy to have you around my table. Thank you. My Mom forwarded an email that she received from her brother. She forwarded the email to me that contained a link to an article written by James Moschgat, USAF (Ret.). The article, “Leadership and the Janitor“. Here is a link to that article: Leadership and the Janitor. In the article Mr. Moschgat spoke about an old man that worked at the U.S. Air Force Academy, as the squadron janitor. The article is very interesting and I would encourage you to read the article. As I read the article several lessons were reinforced. Society conditions you and I to believe that a persons credibility is determined by the position held or in the military the rank that is obtained. With this conditioning comes a faulty perception. A perception that hinders or interferes with our ability to hear the message or messages that will help us on our journey.
Such faulty perceptions create and reinforce labels, stereotypes and stigmatization. These labels, stereotypes and stigmatization hinder limit our ability to hear. In July of 2013 I wrote a 2 part article series, Traumatic Brain Injury, Labeling Theory and Societal Stigmatization. In this 2 part article I spoke to how labels, stereotypes and stigmatization get established and how they result in minimization, marginalization, dismissing and discounting. Biases and prejudices then serve to invalidate and discredit, both the messenger and the message. In the process of buying into these biases and prejudices we may close our ears to hearing the very message that we need to hear. In the article, “Leadership and the Janitor” the young cadets paid little attention to the old janitor, as stated in the below excerpt from the article. Little did the cadets realize that this man working as a janitor — a lowly position in society — was indeed a hero.
“Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, “G’morning!” in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties. Why? Perhaps it was because of the way he did his job — he always kept the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers gleamed. Frankly, he did his job so well, none of us had to notice or get involved. After all, cleaning toilets was his job, not ours.kept the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers gleamed. Frankly, he did his job so well, none of us had to notice or get involved. After all, cleaning toilets was his job, not ours.”
Maybe it was his physical appearance that made him disappear into the background. Bill didn’t move very quickly, and in fact, you could say he even shuffled a bit, as if he suffered from some sort of injury. His gray hair and wrinkled face made him appear ancient to a group of young cadets. And his crooked smile, well, it looked a little funny. Face it, Bill was an old man working in a young person’s world. What did he have to offer us on a personal level?
Maybe it was Mr. Crawford’s personality that rendered him almost invisible to the young people around him. Bill was shy, almost painfully so. He seldom spoke to a cadet unless they addressed him first, and that didn’t happen very often. Our janitor always buried himself in his work, moving about with stooped shoulders, a quiet gait, and an averted gaze. If he noticed the hustle and bustle of cadet life around him, it was hard to tell. For whatever reason, Bill blended into the woodwork and became just another fixture around the squadron. The Academy, one of our nation’s premier leadership laboratories, kept us busy from dawn till dusk. And Mr. Crawford… well, he was just a janitor.”
The article goes on to reveal:
“That changed one fall Saturday afternoon in 1976. I was reading a book about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I stumbled across an incredible story. On September 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy. The words on the page leapt out at me, “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire… with no regard for personal safety… on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-highhandedly attacked fortified enemy positions.” It continued, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States…
“Holy cow,” I said to my roommate, “you’re not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor recipient.” We all knew Mr. Crawford was a World War II Army vet, but that didn’t keep my friend from looking at me as if I was some sort of alien being. Nonetheless, we couldn’t wait to ask Bill about the story…After that brief exchange, things were never again the same around our squadron. Word spread like wildfire among the cadets that we had a hero in our midst — Mr. Crawford, our janitor, had been bestowed The Medal!
Cadets who had once passed by Bill with hardly a glance, now greeted him with a smile and a respectful, “Good morning, Mr. Crawford.”
Interestingly, when the young cadet read that the old janitor was in fact a WW II Medal of Honor recipient his view changed. He then shared what he had learned and the whole squadron saw the janitor in a different light. Instead of continuing to minimize who this man was, based on his position as a janitor; they listened to what he could teach them. In essence, the young cadets stopped discounting the “old man” and started listening to the message he carried. The article goes on to list the lessons learned through the janitor — Army Master Sergeant William J. Crawford (Ret.).
Hearing the Message
I share the above to highlight the service and sacrifices made by hero’s like Master Sergeant William J. Crawford (Ret.) WW II and to make a point. You and I may have individuals in our lives who we have dismissed or discounted. Individuals who are hero’s, that serve and make sacrifices; that may be unknown to you and I. Individuals whom we may show little respect or value.
Individuals who carry a message that can change our lives, for the good. Individuals, who because of labels, stereotypes, stigmatization, biases and prejudices; have been ignored. Individuals we have figuratively “killed” so that we don’t have to hear the message. Individuals who we may have “written off” or ignored because of their job or position. Individuals, because of their disability.
My encouragement to you, as well as to me; is that we no longer judge the messenger by labels, stereotypes, stigmatization, biases or prejudices. That we challenge our label’s, stereotypes, stigmatization, biases and prejudices. That we stay open to hearing the message (s) given to us by the unknown hero’s in our lives. That we no longer “kill” the messenger (s) sent to us.
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