23. Clean The Toilets

I’ve learned some pretty important lessons in life.

People first.

Always be thankful for what you have.

Kindness, generosity and optimism can sometimes get you farther than any skills you learn in school

Flossing your teeth actually does matter

Yet, one of the lessons that still sticks with me is one that I learned in high school.

When I tell people from Oregon that I went to Jesuit high school, most of the time I receive reactions along the lines of:

“Oh…you went to JESUIT!?” // “So, you’re a private school snob?” // “Don’t you guys recruit?”

It’s alright. I know that Jesuit has a reputation of prissy private school snobs who always win in sports. I’ve dealt with it for years of my life, and now it doesn’t bother me if people generalize me based on my high school education. Why? Because regardless of their opinions, I know that the lessons I learned there shaped who I am today.

This post isn’t meant to say that Jesuit is better than any school out there; there are plenty of great schools graced with teachers who encourage you and help you succeed. It’s not always a fit for everyone — each person has their own niche, and Jesuit isn’t always that place. Rather, I want to talk about how thankful I am for the opportunities for growth that Jesuit provided me with.

The first day of my junior year in high school, I was late to class. Living thirty minutes away from school, I got caught in rush hour traffic. I’m a person who is always on time, so this was a traumatic morning for me. I stumbled in late to the classroom, and took the first open seat, trying to avoid the sneering whispers of my classmates.

Clean the toilets.” my teacher said.

I looked around the classroom. Everyone else was just as confused as I was.

Clean the toilets.” she said again.

Still, nothing.

She smiled and went into a long story about the years she volunteered in the Altiplano region of Chile. I wish I remembered all of the details but in my years out of high school, it’s become a little fuzzy. While she was there, each volunteer was assigned a task. You were able to sign up for the task that you wished: hanging laundry, serving the meals, washing the dishes.

No one wanted to clean the toilets. No one ever wants to clean the toilets. It means getting on your hands and knees, and scrubbing until you feel like you’re about to break. It means getting your hands dirty. It’s not pleasant, and it is hard work.

Cleaning the toilets means doing the job that no one wants to do.

It means owning up to your responsibility, and completing it because you know it’s right. It means helping because you know that it will benefit others.

In life, there will always be times when you don’t want to do something. There are times when things are hard, and it’s much easier to turn the other cheek. There are times when you are faced with a challenge and you’re not sure if you have what it takes to make it through. Times when you just don’t know if you can do it anymore.

This is when you need to clean the toilets.

Do the job that no one wants to do because if you don’t, who will?

I’ll never be able to express my sincere gratitude to Ms. Kathleen Myers. Sometimes you don’t know the impact that you have on people, but the lessons I learned in that class changed my life, and forever changed the way that I view the world. I hope that by sharing this story, I can acknowledge my appreciation for the education that I am so fortunate to have.

Life is full of lessons — but to learn those lessons, sometimes you need to clean the toilets.

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