The other night, [my wife] Anne and I were dining out and visiting with one of our server's boyfriend. We were talking about his parents, and he had mentioned that his father was a janitor. Knowing that every job is valuable, I shared a story with him about my favorite janitor of all time. Anne was amazed to hear this story for the first time. I surely thought that in our nearly 39 years together, I had mentioned my Air Force Academy janitor before. I could not believe this was the first that Anne had heard of "Mr. Bill," especially since she had spent over two years dating me while she served at the Air Force Academy. Coincidentally, after hearing my story, Anne knew of a recently published book that would have my janitor featured within. She insisted that we visit Barnes and Noble bookstore, where she found the beautiful hardcover book in question. As she flipped through the pages, she asked if I could still recognize Mr. Bill. After not seeing him for over 35 years, and quite honestly forgetting his name, I thought I recognized him in one of the first few photos, but as we continued to look, I said with excitement, "I think that's him!" Sure enough, the accompanying story verified that it was indeed Mr. Bill. This simple reunion via print literally brought tears to my eyes.
This was the same janitor that walked the halls with me for three years of my life, nearly every day of my busy schedule. I was certainly too busy to pay much attention to him during the rigorous demands of those academy days, often just a gesture or simple greeting had to suffice. It didn't help that he was such a humble and unassuming man, serving me daily in the midst of my self-centered plight for survival. Then, one day, as I personally witnessed our commandant of cadets (one-star general) and the superintendent of the academy (three-star general) render crisp salutes to Mr. Bill, I viewed him with crystal-clear clarity, for the giant of a man that he was. From that day forward, I stood much taller as I approached my janitor adorned with his utility uniform, for he was now the most revered man that I knew. He elected to do the dirtiest and least respected job at the esteemed Air Force Academy, so he could be near the likes of me. I always wondered why I seemed to be so different from those my age, whether they be former military colleagues or airline personnel. Even family, friends and neighbors didn't seem to approach life the same way. Well, after rubbing shoulders with men like janitor Bill and others like him during those formative academy days, life became very much black and white, with no room for shades of grey. Much of my character is shaped by men like Mr. Bill, and I am eternally grateful for his memory.
This Christmas season, as we celebrate a God who loved so much that he GAVE his Son to lay down his life for all of us, please take the time to look at the following links concerning my janitor. I know you will appreciate why he is my favorite janitor, a man that I overlooked far too much of the time, yet he inspired me to be forever unique. May God's face eternally shine upon you, Mr. Bill! (December 2011)