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Clean Mugs and Emptied Trash Cans

January 11, 2018

Another Way for week of January 5, 2018

Clean Mugs and Emptied Trash Cans

Every time I pick up my mug from my office desk—and it still has some of yesterday’s stale coffee—I’m reminded of one of the reasons I’m missing our office housekeeper from the last 34 years.

If you follow my column closely, you know that my office changed locations in mid-November. It was a downsizing maneuver to a downtown location where we are renting space; Doris, the woman who had been the office housekeeper at the older, larger place for over 34 years decided she would not make the move with us. She just happens to be 89 years old, but that never—or rarely—stopped her from performing her daily duties over three floors of offices, no elevator.

One of the reasons she was able to keep working for us is that she lives just across the road from our former office location. So she didn’t have to drive far to “go to work.” In fact, she used to walk over until her adult children insisted she drive herself across the very busy five-lane highway. But getting to our downtown location is a bit dicey with one-way streets, many stoplights, and bad traffic at certain times of the day. So, she made a good call in using this move as a time to quit. She still happily cleans daily at another office near her home.

I miss Doris and we all do. For the last 34 years, she has watered my plants, seen the disgusting stuff I toss in my wastebasket (chewing gum, for instance, that I sometimes forgot to wad into paper), scrubbed my forgotten lunch dishes, and several times a year, took extra time to scour stains out of that “stainless” steel mug. She prided herself in knowing which Tupperware or Glad plastic container belonged to which worker, and usually delivered them back to the correct employee who, like me, frequently left them to drain and dry in the office kitchen.

Doris went far beyond the call of duty: one day she brought back to me my well-used 9×9-inch pan which has baked many brownies, batches of cornbread and other goodies over the years. She had taken it home for her extra-special Doris treatment, using scrubbing powder and lots of “elbow grease.” She got that ancient pan the cleanest it has looked in years. I was humbled and amazed. She went the second mile.

She also tidied and periodically cleaned the bathrooms and made sure they were stocked with necessities. Earlier she also did heavy-duty cleaning: vacuuming and washing and waxing the kitchen and bathroom floors. Eventually she accepted an outside cleaning company doing the deep cleaning.

Beyond these mundane duties, Doris also very much enjoyed checking in with office staff to keep up with our lives, even with the executive directors over the years. She truly cared about us and our families: asking about new babies, who was sick, who was on vacation, who was getting married. When her son was struggling with leukemia and a bone marrow transplant, she shared his ups and downs. I think she was one of our friendliest employees over the years, never hesitant to strike up a conversation with anyone. She has visited us twice in our new location in the six weeks we’ve been there and I have no doubt she’ll keep checking in as long as she can still drive.

Earlier I talked to her about why she kept working at age 86, 87, 88, 89. Her response: “I don’t like sitting around.” In May 2015, she fell and broke her wrist at home, requiring surgery. But she came back to work just six days after surgery, washing dishes with one arm in a brace.

All of us hope to have the vigor and capacity well into our 80s exhibited by Doris. She is happy to be a member of a large non-denominational church on the edge of our city. I hope she can continue to feel useful and “not sit around” for a good many years to come. Happy New Year, Doris!

Some older office staff photos from past years. Can you find Doris in each photo??


I wrote more about Doris’s work in our office building in 2015, here.


What do you enjoy or enjoyed about your work life, job, or career? What have you not liked? Share here if you dare!


Any words of congratulations or way-to-go’s for Doris?? I’ll print them and make sure she sees them!


Also still sending out the 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Email me at or request by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.






  1. singinglady37 permalink

    Thank you for sharing Doris’s story.
    What an amazing woman and I am sure she is missed very much since you moved to your new location story Congratulations on a job well done

  2. Doris, you are amazing because you have obviously taken pride in your honorable work and have a servant’s heart. What a blessing you have been to Melodie and others in the MennoMedia offices. They have already missed the extra-special “Doris treatment.”

    I don’t like sitting around either, and I’m sure you will find ways to be of use where God has planted you now. Congratulations!

    • This is lovely, Marian. You’ve caught the spirit. Funny but true: I was going to include a photo of that pan Doris cleaned for me awhile back in today’s post, and when I looked closely at it, I realized it would never do–it had crusty edges in the corner. And there was no time this morning for a touch up. Time to rescrub! (Momma always said I was a fast dishwasher–too fast as I’m learning. Thanks for sharing yourself with Doris as well. I’ll make sure she sees this.

  3. kathy duford permalink

    Does she want to move to SC…we could use her at our practice, Waterway Animal Hospital. Wow…what an inspiration!

  4. What a heartfelt tribute. Cleaning is so appreciated, and Doris has gained strength from it: physical strength and the wonderful feeling of making things sparkle and smell great.

    • Thanks, Greta, for commenting. This is appreciated too, and I will show it to Doris. I always remember the wonderful smell of our bedrooms when we’d come home from school in the spring and find that mother had been doing her spring house cleaning and airing out the whole house 🙂 What an act of love but also joy (and hard work!)

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