Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Longer Profile

Kate Murphy
Writing Assignment #12
Lunch Lady Cleaning Up Kindness

            A high school cafeteria. Kids are pushing and shoving to make a single-file line toward the grilled chicken sandwiches or salad bar. After eating, the teenagers make their way to the garbage to drop off their trays and silverware. Placing their tray down onto a stainless steel counter, they can hear the jet-engine-like sound of the dishwasher. A woman stands there, with the sprayer in hand, cleaning the sticky messes left behind. Washing dishes may be a grimy job, but the teenagers see something more than suds and rubber gloves. They see this woman with a heart-warming smile, ready to “dish” out a joke or two.
            Jean Murphy has been a kitchen helper at Fairmont High School for 12 years. From washing dishes, to being a wife and mother, this woman has done one thing throughout her entire life – always having a smile and showing kindness.
            “Jean is a very dynamic person in that she is the epitome of gracious,” Mary Betts, a family friend said. “People should notice that she is always positive. I know when I talk to her that will make my day brighter just by what she says.”
            Even students take notice of the big impact that one lunch lady can have.
            “She’s the most caring person I know,” Jazzmyne Kelly, a 2012 FHS graduate said. “She lights up any room she walks in to. Whether it is a piece of candy or a hug, she does whatever she can for people.”
            With the drama of high school surrounding her, why display this kindness?
            “My parents taught me to be respectful,” Murphy said. “I want to treat people how I want to be treated. Being friendly to and with people is something I want to portray. I just like being friends with people and make people happy. If the kids are having a bad day, it’s always nice for them to see a smiling face.”
            Murphy originally went to school for history, but decided it wasn’t the path for her. She transferred and switched her career choice to fashion merchandise. Even though she dropped out of college, and worked at Sears for three years before coming to the high school, she is glad she made it to FHS.
            “Working in the food service never crossed my mind,” Murphy said. “I like being here and being a part of the daily school life. I get to see how the kids grow and change.”
            The mundane job of washing dishes has bigger repercussions than Murphy realizes.
            “I called her my mom,” Kelly said. “She was always there for me and she’s do anything for anyone no matter what.”
            What makes Murphy different is her kindness. She makes an effort to go beyond just saying “hi” to kids or just greeting them with a smile.
            “I try to learn their first name,” Murphy said. “If they say ‘hi’ to me, I give them a piece of candy to sweeten their day. I try to do my best to get to know them and learn who they are.”
            Treating others how you want to be treated is a way of life for many people. It’s always nice to see that being displayed, especially in the high school environment.
            “She does so many nice things for people every day that I truly think we take for granted,” Betts said. “There aren’t many out there like Jean. She is one of a kind, funny, a great cook, and an exceptional mother. She loves her children more than they will ever know.”
            High school dramas, bad test scores, and feeling sick can all be reasons for a disgruntled mood. Once you make your way to the garbage to set aside your tray, that mood can be uplifted with the help of a lunch lady.
            As for the future, Murphy hopes to stay at her position for a few more years, continuing to bring smiles to students’ faces. Eventually, retirement is in her future, but as for right now, washing dishes is her main priority.
            “I don’t think I impact people,” Murphy said. “I do try to reach as many kids as possible and I want to be their source of a sweet treat or a good laugh with a joke.”
            Humble, giving, caring, loving and kind. Those words are just the tip of the iceberg when describing Murphy.
            “Why not make the best of it and be kind,” Murphy said. “I’d rather be positive than negative.”

*Photo by Kate Murphy

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