Recognizing Those Who Often Go Unnoticed

This morning we had a little good-bye party in the law school Atrium for Pete, the primary law school security guard, who is retiring after having served in the University for 30 years, the last 10 of which have been spent at the law school. Every day since I started teaching here, no matter how early I arrive (and I tend to arrive early) Pete has been there at his station.

Rob Vischer, our dean, offered some brief comments after we gave Pete some gifts and before we dove into the cake. Rob observed that while all schools have security stations that are exactly that – a station that provides some security for the community – the security station manned by Pete served more like a front porch. A place to come sit (or at least stand) a while. Pete always took time to greet students and took a keen interest in how they were doing. Pete was, Rob suggested, as much teacher as security guard in the caring he modeled for students, faculty and staff alike. He shared an e-mail from an alum who had graduated almost a decade ago (an alum, Rob joked, who hadn’t even written when Rob became dean, but who wrote as soon as word of Pete’s impending retirement spread), talking about how much Pete’s presence added to his law school experience.

As I listened to Rob, I thought of all the Pete’s in various organizations, the people who are part of the glue that holds entities together. People who are not high enough on the chain of command, or “important” enough by hierarchical standards to be recognized for the work they are doing – until they are ready to retire. At that point, as we become conscious of their impending absence, we acknowledge directly, perhaps for the first time, how much they mean to us, the hole their departure will leave.

Why wait until those people are ready to retire to recognize them and express gratitude for who they are and all they contribute?

Who are the Pete’s in your school, your workplace, your church, or the other organizations of which you are a part? Have you thanked them lately? Or done anything to let them know you see them and appreciate them?

Note: I will take off immediately after teaching my two classes this morning to drive to the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh, where I will be presenting an weekend Ignatian preached retreat. I ask you to keep me and the retreatants in your prayers.