By Tim (Social Content Guy)
Over the years I have worked many different jobs. Most of them have been in the custodial field at various facilities. I am a self-proclaimed ‘neat freak’ so it makes sense that I’d enjoy this type of work. Since Saddleback doesn’t have a main office I wasn’t hired to clean any toilets or vacuum the floors. 😉 One of my favorite custodial jobs was in Saint Paul, MN at Sholom Home. Sholom Home is a multi-building facility set in a Jewish environment with apartments, assisted living, and a nursing home. The staff and residents are fantastic and I enjoyed the year that I worked there.
While working there I had many unique experiences. From working with a wonderful team of assorted folks, to meeting a survivor of the Holocaust, to leading a non-denominational ecumenical service for the Christian residents working at Sholom Home was never dull. I was humbled as I cared for the residents in different stages of life. When aging folks surround you it really sobers you to what you are bound to experience as you age. It gave me a whole different perspective on life!
In the year that I worked at Sholom Home I had so many rich experiences that I do not have time to share them all here. I do want to share a few of the gems though. One of the most vivid memories was a Christmas service I helped with. It was around Hanukkah and Christmas. There was a group of Catholics who came to serve the Catholic residents and we worked together to provide a few songs and a short homily before lunch. I should probably mention that at the time I had a thick, long beard and dreadlocks (I still have both for that matter). While the Catholic priest strummed his guitar I accompanied on my djembe (an African hand drum) and we sang Christmas carols. We got done before lunch was ready and there was a bit of an awkward silence. The priest then asked the Rabbi to share about Hanukkah. It was so awesome to hear him talking about the festival of lights and how we are all to be light in the darkness. A lovely lunch followed and I think everyone had a new perspective on life and faith. I’ll always remember that day!
Part of the assisted living facility had a memory care unit. This was for residents who had different memory challenges and needed some extra help with daily living. It might seem odd but this was my favorite floor to clean. You just never knew what was going to happen. One day I was cleaning the dining area while a few of the residents finished up their lunch. I tried to be friendly but also stay out of the way so I could finish my cleaning routine. There was a table with four women at it near where I was mopping. Out of the blue I heard one of them remark to the others,
“Did you see that?! He put his hands in my salad dish!”
Another lady replied, “No he didn’t! He’s mopping the floor.”
To which the first replied, “Who ever heard of a four year old mopping the floor?!”
Keep in mind I had a thick, long beard. It took everything I had not to laugh out loud. I really have no idea what triggered that interaction but it definitely gave me a smile throughout the rest of the day. I have always been told that I have a very youthful face but never imaged being mistaken as a four year old.
There’s a final story from my time at Sholom that I have to share. One of the truly unique ‘residents’ of Sholom Home is an African Grey parrot named GC. GC lives on the main level of Sholom near the elevators. Like all African Greys he is very vocal, speaks clearly, and can make the uncanniest noises. I actually got to clean his cage as part of my work and always made sure to give him space lest I should be bitten.
On one particular day, near Christmas, I was taking the elevator up to another floor and was joined by a deliveryman. As the delivery man passed GC’s cage GC let out a cheerful, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (He whistled the end of year)” The delivery man looked surprised and said to me (in the thickest New Yorker accent you can image), “Merry Christmas?! Shouldn’t he be saying Happy Hannuker?” He had a valid point but it still made me chuckle. As far as I know GC is still alive and probably still surprises people with his greetings!
I have so many more memories from the year I worked at Sholom but these are the real gems. I learned so much about community, aging, faith, life, and death while I worked there. I’m really thankful I eventually found my way to Saddleback and no longer clean toilets (for money) but I also know that my time at Sholom helped form who I am today. If you’re ever in Saint Paul look up Sholom and go visit or volunteer. Say “Hi” to GC for me too, please.