I’m gonna be honest. Being a school lunch lady is hard, dirty, underappreciated, underpaid, HARD work. We have to put up with a lot; from complaints from parents about what we’re serving their kids (hint: It ain’t exactly 4-star fare here, folks) to the folks in upper management handing down a lot of ridiculous decisions that sound good on paper but don’t actually work out very well once you’re in the trenches of a busy kitchen. There’s a lot of gossip, too..who did this, who is a horrible person to work with or for, how so and so in upper management actually only got that job because they were a suck up. That sort of thing. I imagine it goes on in pretty much every workplace ever.
So it’s hard sometimes not to be hard about it, not to be cynical. Even if you’re striving very hard to stay positive and keep up a very “No worries!” attitude, it’s hard not to become cynical and “Meh. This sucks. I don’t even care.” about the whole thing. Because as much as I love my coworkers (and I do..they’re an awesome group of strong women), the job DOES suck at times. And I mean like epic level suck. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way about THEIR jobs too, though.
But it’s the little moments that make it all worth it, to be honest. There is one boy, probably autistic (since I have an autistic son I kind of have a radar for these things and can usually pick out the autistic kiddo at 50 paces), who barely ever says a word according to his teachers. But when he comes through my line, even if he’s in a grumpy mood, he always says thank you to me. If he doesn’t come through my line (there are two), I make sure to wave and say “Hey, D, how’s it going?” in attempt to maybe get him to smile (which doesn’t happen often. I don’t blame him for that, though. The world is incredibly hard for autistic kiddos to process and understand, after all).
Typically, the crew sits down to lunch around 12:45, after the last of the afternoon preK kids have been served. We were doing the typical thing, talking and gossiping and giggling and making vaguely dirty references about the various vendors who come in several times a month. One of the autistic kiddos was leading the principal (who is a sweet and immensely patient woman) by the hand. He ran over to us and hugged our meat cook, N. “Thank you for the chickenfish!” he chirped before doing a little hop-trot over to the principal and leading her away. We’d had fish sticks for lunch that day..not the most popular item on the menu (that’s usually tacos or the steak..er..I mean..sliced beef..fingers). When he came over and hugged N and told her thank you, my heart kinda went all melty melty all over the floor because it was so sweet of him to do that.
I’ve gotten random hugs from kids also and one sweaty, smelly fifth grader came up and leaned on me for a minute, telling me he thought my food was the most delicious thing ever. It’s not, but it was nice of him to say so anyway.
This is why I do it..for these little moments every day that I get to experience. The fact that I have off all the same days my son has off for the most part and that I get paid year round (which was just made a thing this school year and I am grateful, since it allows me to make my car payment in the summer without dipping into savings) is nice. But it’s the small interactions every day that really make it worth it.