"I thought, does God think I'm not humble enough that He wants me to be more? I thought I treated the cleaners and waitresses well in my country. I treated my office boys and girls well like my own friends. What do I need to learn about humbleness?"
Then I realize how arrogant I am, asking such a question! Thinking that I don't need to learn about humbleness means that I need it the most! Moreover, being humble enough is not enough. God wants us to be the humblest.
And what can shape me to be the humblest servant better than putting me in the lowest position? I'm not saying that being a cleaner is low. I'm saying that cleaning other people’s shit and still get treated disrespectfully, nah that is low for me. That hurts my pride, if I still have one. But this is why God wants me to do this job. So that I don’t have any pride left in me."
When I first started doing this full time job six months ago, I went home crying. It was my first day, I had to walk 7,5 hours non-stop (with one time break in between), patrolling around certain area, cleaning toilets (sometimes unimaginably dirty), got frustrated to meet 26 minutes turnaround time, and my feet were super painful. I got frightened imagining I had to do this everyday (38 hours of walking in a week). Plus, I was worried I might make a lot of mistakes, like didn't understand what my manager or supervisor asked me to do, didn't hear when they called me in the radio, didn't know the area where they wanted me to attend, and many others. It terrified me so much that the potential anxiety exploded out as tears, as usual.
I also felt so guilty that after begging God for a job, I was not happy when I finally worked. Instead of saying grace on my first day, I presented Him my tears. How could I not feel ashamed, after asking for this job (to be a cleaner), then all I was thinking at that time was to quit the job. I was so weak, huh? I wanted to quit on my first day! No wonder God made me wait for almost two months to get this job (read the testimony here), because if I didn't consider how hard it was to get this job I surely would quit already. Finally, I understood.
Later on, I struggled with this job day by day. I felt so tired and couldn't enjoy this job. Time passed slowly. My feet were terribly sore. All I could do was just reminding my self that I should be joyful and grateful. There must be something I could learn from this job. But it was so hard. So hard for me. I still cried at home for few days. I didn't mean to sound dramatic, but I genuinely felt physically and mentally miserable.
On Sunday, when I went to church the sermon was about the Israelite who left Egypt. It hit me right in the feels. I felt that God had already led me out and parted the sea for me, took me here, provided for me, yet I still moaned and sighed. Deep in my heart I knew that He was leading me to something greater ahead, that I was (and still am) heading toward my promised land. But I yearned and wanted to go back to my Egypt, where it was comfortable but I moved toward nothing.
At night I cried again and shared with Esther my house mate from Kenya, and she said, "We are here in Australia, to be humbled by God. When I first came here, I was so depressed and lost weight drastically. It took me so long to adapt, and I was completely alone at that time. I didn't want to go to work or do anything. I just wanted to hide in my bedroom, felt so frustrated and only wanted to be with my family. I never did that kind of job in my home country, and yes it was hard. But it changed me. A lot. When I went back to my country for holiday, people said I changed a lot. I started doing things that I never did by myself before. I become a different person. In a good way. That's why I said to you, you will be alright. You will make it. After you get used to it, you will not feel that hard. And you will change. I told you, we are here to be humbled by God."
Feeling so blessed and much better, I was determined to get myself together and at least stop crying. I am not saying that my job became easier since then, but I became able to see what I was actually being taught about through my daily duties as a cleaner.
1. To stand humbly when people look down.
In Indonesia, this job is not something people will respect. Worse, some people will treat you poorly. I have seen how cleaners and waitresses are being treated in my country so I had 'high' expectation about this job. Haha. I know in Australia it's different. Even someone who is studying for doctorate degree can become a cleaner, and someone who is actually a daughter of conglomerate can work as a waitress.
However, not everyone is that open-minded and understands. Some, still with their conservative way of thinking, view us as lower human being. At first it hurt my pride. But then I realized when I felt irritated, then I was arrogant! I felt that I should be treated better, I shouldn't be treated like this, I was better than this, blah blah blah. To be honest, one day when I got so irritated with an Asian girl, I was talking to myself, "Hey, what's that attitude? Do you know that I graduated magna cum laude?" Haha, see? It was arrogant. Exactly not a humble reaction.
Later on, as I practiced and practiced everyday, I could feel that my ego didn't react the way it did before. Not saying that I am not arrogant anymore, but at least my pride didn't get offended as often as it used to be.
There's also a day when I went to the bank to transfer some money during my lunch break, so I still wore my cleaner uniform with the shopping centre name written on it. The officer asked me, "Are you working at the centre?" and I answered, "Yes, I am a cleaner." Then she quickly said, "Oh, I'm sorry." Then I smiled with confused face, wondering what's that sorry for. Haha.
2. To appreciate people who serve us.
We tend to respect people who have power, who have money, who can benefit us and do something for us. But we forget that some people not only can do something for us, they already did. They serve us, clean up our mess, prepare the toilet to be clean and ready to use, deliver our food, wash our dishes, and we can make them happier with a sincere thank you.
I am grateful I can learn from a lot of sweet people in Australia. Most people, when they saw me cleaning the toilet, they would say "thank you love", "you are doing a good job", "thank you for the clean toilet", "thank you for cleaning up for us", etc. It costs nothing but it brightens up my day.
Sometimes when I checked the toilet and it was dirty, a customer who was already inside said sympathetically, "Oh, I'm so sorry for you, some people don't care about the mess they left. You guys cleaners must be a very patient person."
Encouraging words are what we need in a tiring day. I understand more after being in that position.
3. To smile even when I am tired.
Actually this skill is best learned when we are working in the front office. If we are a cleaner, we may look flat, we are not obliged to look happy every time. Based on my observations, most cleaners look tired and not happy when working. This is normal because, IT'S SO TIRING INDEED! Haha. I can say that with all my heart because I know how it feels.
Who cares about smiling if our feet cries out, "Sit and rest!" But some of my cleaner fellas always treated the customers well and never forgot to smile. So I really learned from them and tried to be happy to produce that genuine smile no matter how tired I was. I thought the customers may feel happy if they see a smiling cleaner than a grumpy one.
I also took this as a practice. Later after I get married, I hope I can always welcome my husband home with a smile, even if I feel really tired. Hahaha.
4. To do simple things that can make people's life easier.
In winter, it's raining almost everyday. When people come to the shopping centre through the entrance, the floor will be wet because of their shoes. Or worse, trolley. We, the cleaners, have to mop it dry over and over again to prevent any slip and injury. Actually we have that big mats on the floor for all entrances, But some people are just too lazy to dry their shoes bottom before they continue walking. Can you imagine if 10 people come in, there will be 20 long footprints from the entrance to approximately 10 meters away.
I don't blame them anyway, I used to do that too because I don't realize it. So I just thinking if every person uses their few seconds to rub their shoes bottom on the mat, then there will be less water on the floor, less tiring for the cleaners, and less risk for people to slip and fall. So I learned that a simple thing I do can cause big differences for others.
Same when I was working in the food court. We have the corners where people can put their plates after they finish eating. Some people really do that and it was really helping especially in busy time. I had to work really fast and I couldn't stop at all to drink or go to the toilet on Thursday night because it's busy busy. So I really know what difference it could make from one person returning their plates by themselves, and I want to learn to be that kind of person.
5. To have good attitude in all kinds of job.
Not only working in office, I just knew that working as a cleaner also needs good attitude! Haha. On my first day, I didn't know what I should do after my shift finished at 5. So I just did the same mall patrolling thing, checked the toilets as usual. At 5, someone came and took over my trolley, he would continue until 6. I called him Uncle Kwun. He is from Singapore. So I thought my shift was over, I went home. Next few days, I worked in the food court with Uncle Kwun. He told me, "Actually on Tuesday when I took over from you, your toilets were really dirty. I think you can do better than that."
I said sorry to him, then I realized that someone was going to take over my trolley on my lunch break and after my shift ended. So a good work ethic was really needed in order to make life easier for my workmates. I also learned from my beloved workmate, Karen, who always prepared everything before someone came to do her lunch break or continue her shift. Restocking the trolley, emptying the trolley bin, changing the almost-empty toilet papers, and those simple things. I learned that good work ethic means not making other people suffer for what's supposed to be our responsibility, and if we can, make their job easier.
6. To laugh at the shitty things.
I hate cleaning up shit. Well, no one loves it. And this was what I had to face almost everyday. I didn't mind, really, if the shit was small and inside the bowl. The problem was, sometimes people like to do it outside, like on the toilet bowl seat, or on the floor.
ON THE FLOOR!
Can you imagine it? When I saw it, I just thought, "What on earth was this person thinking, doing it on the floor?" Luckily, it's solid, so easier for me to clean. I hope you are not eating when reading this haha.
And oh yeah, every time I encountered this shitty things to clean, I always said, "SHIT!" One day I had to clean it right exactly after having my lunch. So I just said "Shit" repeatedly and I really wanted to cry. The next day I also had to clean the sink with poo here and there in the parents room. I really wanted to text my godmother and said, "I'm so tired dealing with shit!!!" Seriously, that's the hardest part of the job. People look down at me? I don't care. But that dirty toilet, I should care. I should clean it.
One day my friend who was also a cleaner told me a story. He had to clean up the poo on the shopping centre floor in the morning. It was sticky and long because the person who did it was walking. My friend was so disgusted and swept the sticky poo and threw away the broom. When he told me that story I laughed out loud because I thought that's so funny.
Then few weeks later I had to face the same thing! It was sticky and stepped by shoes, approximately 10 meters away. At first I thought it was chocolate cake, before I knelt down and looked at it thoroughly. I was so shocked but my first reaction was laughing. I remembered my friend and how I laughed at him. Now it's in front of me. I felt like being punished by God, in a funny way. People there must thought I was crazy, maybe they never saw a cleaner who laughs when cleaning up poo.
But then I realized it's easier when I laughed at it. Since then every time I encountered it, I could smile and said, "Oh, okay." And sometimes me and my workmates exchanged our stories about what-kind-of-shitty-thing-happened-today and both of us laughed together.
Even after learning so much, sometimes I still felt lazy to work. Unhappy, bored, ungrateful, and tired of course. Hehe. I don't say it's an exciting job. But I am grateful for the things I learned, the people I met, the moments I treasured, and the memories I made. My godmother said, "If you want to serve God, you have to let go all your pride. If you want to serve God, you have to be willing to be low. Now you are learning." I am not saying that now I am a humble person, but at least I am less arrogant than what I used to be. It should be, I do not clean the poo for nothing. *giggling*
After I read my journal again, I ever wrote this on August 23, 2013:
"God, please give me the best job in Your sight, not mine.
And please help me to see with Your eyes."
Now I understand, this is the answer of my own prayer. So be careful with your prayers. Hahaha.
P.S. I knew a girl from Indonesia who also came with WHV and got a job as a cleaner in the same company as me. She said she cried everyday, too. Finally I knew that it's not only me who was exaggerating the misery, but it was real! Or both of us were weak? LOL. I shared with her that I experienced the same thing too, so I convinced her she will be alright. She can share with another girl someday. Haha.