At six foot three, I rarely found myself looking up to anyone. The last person I would ever expect to look up to would be a dwarf, uh, little person. (Always forget that’s what Clarence liked to be called.)
We met when I applied to be a custodian at Sonrise Chapel. I wasn’t excited about the idea, but being kicked off the basketball team and loosing my scholarship had left me a little desperate. Trying to paste on a fake smile, I sat down for my interview.
“Well, we haven’t had many applicants, so I’ll look past your lack of experience and say you’re hired.” Pastor Samuelson began to laugh as he stood to shake my hand, craning his neck to look me in the eye. “Wow. The staff is gonna love this one. Let me introduce you to the head custodian, Clarence. You two will make for quite the conversation starter.”
Clueless to why he found hiring me so funny, I followed him out of the office in search of my new boss. Pastor Samuelson and I crossed the large church property and found Clarence polishing the pews in the sanctuary.
“Clarence? I’d like you to meet Bobby. Just hired him to help you out around here.” Pastor excused himself to return to his sermon planning and left me standing face to face, well, knee cap to face, with the shortest adult I’d ever seen. I really wasn’t sure what to say.
“So how’s the weather up there? Pretty chilly down here, but I suppose your toes could’ve told you that.” His humor about the situation put me at ease and started our relationship out on a great note.
“Yeah, so um, what were you doing down there when we came in? I thought I heard you talking to yourself.”
“Oh that. No, not to myself. I was praying. Every time I polish these old pews, I say a prayer.”
“You pray about a piece of furniture?” This was getting weird.
“No, not for the pew, for the parishioner who will be making themselves cozy in it come sermon time. I pray Pastor’s words will reach their hearts in just the way they need them to so that they will be blessed. Don’t you pray much yourself?”
“Who me? Nah. Not really into that whole God thing. I’m just here for a job. That’s all. What about you? How’d you decide to make such a cool career move and become a janitor?”
“Grab that bottle of polish and I’ll tell you.” Clarence pointed a stubby finger over to a bottle of Old English sitting on the wooden floor. He took it from me with a hand smaller than one of my fingers. I picked up a rag and began to rub some of the oily ooze into the seat next to him.
“Well, for me, the story’s a little different. I grew up without much options. Knew I needed some way to make a living, but didn’t care for the smell of elephants, so Ringling Bros. was out.” I was amazed at how he could poke fun at himself so easily like that. “My dad taught me that everything we do we are to do as unto the Lord. Figured if I gotta work anyway, might as well do it at His place. So I applied here. Been working for Pastor Samuelson ever since.”
Over the years I worked at Sonrise, Clarence and I had many conversations about God. I talked with Pastor too, but something about working directly with Clarence gave us a closer bond.
His love of God overflowed in every task he performed on the job. He really meant that whole “as unto the Lord” bit. Whether he was picking up after the youth group or scrubbing toilets, he counted it an honor to be part of caring for the house of God.
He worked at the church for over twenty five years; I was blessed to be with him for ten of them. He taught me a lot about God and how to let His love shine through my actions. Clarence was a blessing to everyone who knew him as he helped to create a beautiful house of worship to come to week after week.
Now that he’s past on and I’m head custodian, I only hope my new employees will look up to me the way I looked up to Clarence.
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