Speak Eagle

The Secret of the Happy Janitor

I lug heavy cast iron skillets to the wash station across from our campsite and grouch. Grumble, gripe, grouch. I pass my husband and boys playing cornhole.

I could ask them to help but I would rather play the martyr, sigh, and grouch my grouchy hands into the soapy water to scrub bacon grease off the first black cast iron skillet. My thoughts fuel my grouchiness. Not fair. Grumble. Why me? Gripe. I’m a good cornhole player too. Grouch.

I hear a noise behind me and turn to see a man with a mop and a cleaning cart. He smiles, “Good morning!” I grouch back, “Mornin.” He disappears into the men’s bathroom. I scrub the second skillet free of breakfast hash. Grouch and scrub.

I can hear the janitor bopping about, tackling his duties. That’s funny. He’s humming. Happy. Content. I hate to imagine what he’s cleaning.  Surely, washing dishes is a picnic compared to cleaning the men’s bathroom at a campground. Blech. How in the world is he not grouching? His thoughts are clearly fueled by something different from mine.

He comes back out, gets a towel and a squirt bottle from his cart. And then I hear it.


Played from an I-Pod on his hip. Not silenced by earphones, but playing for all to hear- all, like nearby grouchy dishwashers.

I pick out the lyrics…

That you may know His hope

You may know His riches

And you may know His mighty strength

To the praise of His glorious grace”

Wait. That sounds like Michael W. Smith! He’s listening to praise music? I rinse the skillets. So that’s his secret. He’s not fueling his thoughts with grouching, but with gratitude. His thoughts are higher, way above the bathroom, above the campground, right there at the throne of God.

Suddenly I remember, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.”  With my grouchy heart, the tone of my “Mornin” wasn’t pretty. But the tone of this man, fueled by praise, spoke a blessing.

I was reminded of two important things that morning. First, what we let ruminate in our minds will eventually come out of our mouths. Lord, let us ruminate on You.

And second, never wash seasoned cast iron with soap.

Turns out, I could have just played cornhole.

6 thoughts on “The Secret of the Happy Janitor”

  1. Ouch – hope you didn’t ruin the skillet. We’ve got a cast iron dutch oven that’s a real thrill to clean without soap, so I know what a pain that is. And I’ve been that groucher on campouts before, long ago when our kids were less helpful than they are today. It happens to everyone! -Amy

    1. Amy- Thankfully, I discovered that you can re-season cast iron with oil! A cast iron dutch oven sounds VERY heavy- but I’ll bet you can make some amazing stuff in it. So kids eventually become helpful on campouts? That’s very hopeful news- ha! 🙂

  2. Thanks Heidi I needed this! Today I’m choosing gratitude over grouching! Caetlyn gave me Deut. 30:19-20. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”.

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