By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
I got up early to watch the Queen’s funeral to pay respects for her stoic life of service. I respect the monarchy and the role they play in public office.
It was a somber, grand ceremony and I reflected on the Queen after I left the telly to don my wellies and fork out horse manure in the barn.
Quite different, my life is, from that of a royal. I come from a long line of farmers and truthfully, I prefer barn boots to high heels. I am proud to carry on the tradition of being stewards of the land and caretakers of creatures, as my parents, grandparents and great grandparents did before me. It’s a role that is being passed down to my own children and in its own right, there is honour in feeding families and taking care of a tiny piece of the planet.
I rarely think of status, other than in-your-face juxtapositions such as watching a royal event before mucking stalls.
Recently, though, I was made keenly aware of how “less than” one can be made to feel when your role is considerably lower on the traditional ladder of success.
I clean cottages as a side hustle, a job I took on after I realized how hard it was to find cleaners for my own cottage Airbnb. I decided to offer the service myself, charge a hefty wage and make some extra money. It was a good fit with my career as I can do it after hours and the work is physical, compared to long hours sitting as a writer and editor.
I was cleaning one cottage when the new guests arrived before check-in time. They were apologetic about their early arrival but also curt, bossy and demanding about tasks that still needed to be done. They did not look me in the eye and it took me a minute to realize they saw me as a person who cleans toilets and mops floors, which I totally was!
I have no shame about that, nor have I ever felt embarrassed by the work until that moment when I was looked upon as “less than.”
Part of me wanted to say, “Hey, I am a farmer and business owner, thank you very much.” But this was not my place and I was representing the owners of the cottage. So I was courteous and respectful and continued my work while they waited outside.
It was a very humbling experience, to be honest. I haven’t been treated in such a supercilious manner since I served chicken at Dixie Lee back in high school.
While I was a little affronted by the situation, I decided to embrace it and learn from it.
Leaving the cottage spic and span for the guests, I wondered how many times I have been less than friendly or perhaps even dismissive to those who serve in what is perceived as low-skilled and lay-paying jobs.
Have I even made someone feel “less than” because of my expectations, assumptions, internal rankings or because I was in a hurry and wrapped up in my own self?
It gave me pause, because I’m sure I have. That felt very humbling too.
Life never stops teaching us lessons, does it? I hope it will remind me to honour everyone I meet for their humanity as much as I honour Queen Elizabeth for her lifetime of service.
In the end, I think it is more shameful for anyone to look down on another for their job or “status” in life than to work on your hands and knees. Cleaning cottage sure isn’t glamourous but it’s honest work.
We all have our roles in this life. Some were born to be princes and princesses and as we’ve seen with Prince Harry, being at the top of the totem pole isn’t a happy place for some either.
Whether we be Queens or chambermaids, all work can be considered honourable when done well. ◊