The Steady Hands of Lavonne Kaiser

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The hardest working person I know stands about five feet tall. Her stature is hunched, her hands knotted from years of work. Her weight likely would not tip one hundred pounds on the scales. However, like many things in life, one’s eyes can be deceiving. Lavonne Kaiser’s constant, consistent work ethic and dedication to Wahlert reminds me of the person I want to become.

The extent of most of our conversations sounds something like this:

“Hi, Lavonne!”


Our rapport may include the occasional, “I like your shoes, young man,” or “Fresh cut, Lavonne,” depending on the day. I once had to explain to her what the word “fresh” meant in that context.

Truth be told, I do not know Lavonne all that well, and I would not be offended if she did not know my name. A personal relationship is not what fostered my deep appreciation for her. Rather, it sprouts from observation.

My admiration stemmed from a single picture. I was a sophomore enrolled in Digital Photography (and was not too talented). My assignment was to take a “hand portrait,” that is, to capture a person’s essence just by the appearance of his or her hands. Truthfully, I planned on dissing the assignment and snapping a photo of my dad’s hairy knuckles the night before the due date.

By a chance encounter during a stroll around Wahlert, I saw the small but mighty woman pushing a cart of miscellaneous cleaning supplies. With the thought of people’s hands still strangely on my mind, I took a glance at Lavonne’s. I then understood the meaning of the assignment, and the synapses of my brain lit up. Her hands told a story of faith, work, and perhaps struggle. Two tasteful rings sat on each ring finger. A bracelet carrying a passage from the Gospel of Luke sat proudly around her wrist. It was evident that she had worked for many years, showing a strength that is not typical for an elderly woman.

To put it simply, Lavonne puts most of us to shame. There are days when I feel sorry for myself because I struggled on a test, I may have shot poorly in practice, or my parents and I are engaged in our millionth argument over car privileges. When I find myself moping, I usually see Lavonne scraping gum off of the bottom of the bleachers on her hands and knees or holding three full recycling bins at once (not kidding, I have seen it in person). The energy that she possesses cannot be matched, especially while performing a job that many people take for granted.

Lavonne is not an award winning teacher, principal, or superintendent. She holds the humble title of janitor. However, I believe that she acts as the glue that holds Wahlert together. So many wonderful people have shaped me throughout my life with strong relationships and wise advice, but Mrs. Kaiser’s nonverbal actions have had a profound impact. Nothing about Lavonne suggests insincerity. She radiates authenticity, humility, and a strong will to do things the right way.

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