Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leaders & Maggots

Do you have any idea what happens when:
  • somebody's generosity means that 800 pounds of tuna -- whole fish -- are donated (frozen) to our campus, and then
  • numerous staff spend three days gutting and cleaning these culinary gifts, and then
  • throw the entrails from the last batch into a garbage can, and then
  • leave it outside in the hot sun over a weekend?

One of my "miscellaneous" duties here in Tijuana is team leader for one of the many cleaning crews that do daily "chores" around the campus from 8:00-8:30. And as fate would have it, the fish gutting took place in the area that I am responsible for.

The stench that greeted me Monday morning was like a slap in the face, even from forty or fifty metres away. Several of the Leadership Training School students (who make up the cleaning crew that I oversee) were already present, and were all exclaiming -- in English, Spanish and Portuguese -- about how vile one of the garbage cans was.

Against their advice, I approached the can, hearing a strange, almost sizzling, sound coming from within. Holding my breath (for obvious reasons), I dared to peer over the edge, and saw 45 pounds of maggots squirming about. You could see the remnants of a garbage bag which had fallen uselessly inside the can, but that was all. The odour told me "fish guts", but all you could see was the seething mass of maggots.

¡Qué asco! (disgusting)

So, with the eyes of the students on me, I pulled out several fresh garbage bags, and headed back to the can. This provoked numerous animated responses:
  • "You're not going to do that, are you?"
  • "Why don't you get the last person who shows up to do it?"
  • "Seriously, you're going to clean that up?"
I was thinking of John 13, where Jesus washed the disciples' feet. It was the job nobody wanted. It was "beneath" the disciples (in their minds, anyway). Yet Jesus did it. And he explained that this is how leadership works in the Kingdom.

So, I started to try and tip the maggot-fest into the new garbage bag; one of the LTS students came alongside and simply asked, "Could you use some help?"

Together, the two of us poured the can's contents into a new garbage bag. Oh, did I mention the stench? It got worse as we shifted the squirming pile. And then bagged that one again. And then put it all into a fourth bag. Finally, between the two of us -- and with extreme caution and care -- we carried la bolsa de la fatalidad (bag of doom) the twenty yards to the big green dumpster. Fortunately, our combined efforts to hoist it up and into the dumpster did not result in any rips or spills.

I have no idea what the other LTS students were thinking (beyond the obvious: "better you than me"), but I noticed that only one of them immediately came to help when she saw me heading for the noxious can. And I wonder if she realized how much she was exhibiting true servant leadership by assisting me with 45 pounds of maggots.

It's what Jesus would have done, I'm pretty sure.