Updated: Dec 26, 2019
We were in a bind - we had just reworked the junior high school schedule and shortened our transition time between lunches to just four minutes. The lunch ladies were on edge as to how we were going to get 250 students in, feed them lunch, release them, clean every table and the floor, bring in another 250, and continue this process two more times. How were we going to get everything "reset" in just four minutes?
Being the principal, I supposed this was my problem. I'd put some good thought into this, shifted some staff to help but realized that we were still going to be short help during these integral intervals between lunches. What was I to do? That is when it hit me - why could I not roll up my sleeves and wipe tables? Sure, I was the principal, but that does not mean that this is beneath me and it would give me a chance to get out, see the students and speak to some staff that otherwise I'd just not get to know.
And so it was, for the next three years, almost every day, three times per day I wiped tables. I only did this because I saw a need and, as service is deeply seeded in my heart, saw a chance to serve.
Little did I now the effect of this small act. The word spread quickly through the entire school - both with students and staff. This singular act caused people to questions what they might have considered "beneath" them and started a culture of service in our school.
Almost weekly there would be a visitor (parent of a student, community member, high school coach) in our lunch room and I would hear so often, "yea, he is our principal and guess what??? When we leave he will be wiping our tables." So not only did this have an effect on our school culture, but it also started effecting how the community viewed the junior high.
Now that I have grown in my leadership experience, I think this is so valuable. We must be willing to "go to the people." We must set the example of what we would like to see and sometimes that means doing things that could be easily hired out or delegated. People need to see us serving others and I believe that as we do so the effects will be much more than we can presently picture.
"Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living." Albert Einstein