…a janitor

The book was new to the Media Center and the first grader hugged it tightly to her body, the bunny on the cover faced out and peeked over the girl’s arms. 

A tall young man spoke to her, “What’s the name of the book?”

She turned the book around and looked at it.  Her shoulders shrugged and she looked up, up at him and smiled.

He asked again, “What’s the name of the book?”

She replied, “You know what the name is, you can read it.”

He shook his head and whispered, “No, I can’t.”

She looked at him, surprise and disbelief evident on her face. In child-like simplicity she uttered one word – “Why?”

I held my breath, waiting.

“Because I’m a janitor,” he quietly answered.

The girl looked at the book and then at him.  She shook her head and watched as he nodded his.

He pointed to the two word title and asked again, “What’s the name of the book?”

She hesitated and then opened her mouth to reply – but the Librarian had walked up on the conversation and called the young man’s name, then said, “You can read the title of that book! (and laughed) You know you can! (and then to the girl) Is he teasing you?”

And, the little girl smiled and nodded her head.

The librarian then said, “Bunny Cakes is a cute book, don’t you think?”

The young man said, “Bunny Cakes! I knew the name, did you?”

The little girl nodded her head as the young man said, “I just like teasing with the kids – I tell them I don’t know what it says and when they ask why I tell them, you know, that I’m a janitor.”

The librarian assured the girl that being a janitor was no small thing and that the young man could indeed read and was quite smart.

With a flash of a smile she and Bunny Cakes hopped over to the circulation desk to make arrangements for the book to accompany her home.

The young man laughed at his joke and waved at the little girl as he exited the Media Center.

I’ve racked my brain trying to remember if I’ve seen this young man on a computer, reading anything, or putting pen to paper. And, to be honest, I can’t remember a single time. 

This young man’s face is burned into my memory of today’s events and I will be “eyes open” to see if indeed this young man can read and if not, will offer him the opportunity to learn.

— Written in fond memory of Frank – the janitor at my elementary school, almost 50 years ago.

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