“We learned a lot about gratitude and humility — that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our schools clean ... and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.” — Michelle Obama
At 49 years of age, one starts to confront their mortality. They also nostalgically reflect on the legacy their parents and grandparents left them.
One of the lessons I learned from my hard working grandfather, Michael Guilfoyle Sr., a retired City of St. John’s firefighter, was to respect the environment.
When I was a child, I remember my grandfather picking up trash at Quidi Vidi Lake and disposing of it in plastic trash bags. I suppose one could argue that it was a part of his responsibility as a lake security guard, but actually it wasn’t. He was going above and beyond the call of duty.
Another memory I have of my grandfather Guilfoyle is of him picking up trash from the woods in Placentia Junction where we had a cabin.
My father, Michael Guilfoyle Jr., was no different. As a crane operator and carman with the Canadian National Railway, he often had to go to wreck sites and lift up train cars and re-establish them on the tracks. Sometimes he would be tasked with having to walk a kilometre or so ahead of the wrecking team and survey the area. He told me sometimes he would see trash that hikers would leave in the woods. Abhorred by such a scene, he would pick up the trash and bring it back to his work station and dispose of it.
My father passed away on June 12, 2018, at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital from heart failure.
As an expatriate now teaching in Korea, I always try to visit home at least once every two years.
Today, I prepare to visit Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and touch my father’s headstone for the first time, I am left reflecting upon the legacy my parents and grandparents left me.
A part of that legacy is the importance of respecting the environment, maintaining the cleanliness of one’s private and public space and importantly, treating the janitor and CEO the same.
Yesterday I was shocked beyond belief at the dirty condition many patrons of the Avalon Mall food court left their tables in. I felt really sorry for the custodial staff of the food court and went up to one cleaner and complimented her on a job well done.
The next time you eat at a food court, please consider how hard a custodian’s job is.
When you think about leaving your trash behind on a table ask yourself if you want your children to have no respect for the environment, work space and custodians.
Patrick M. Guilfoyle,
Busan, South Korea