From “The Pineywoods Manifesto”: Know Those Who Serve

I’m thinking of using this photo on the cover of ‘The Pineywoods Manifesto.’


The following is from the upcoming book by Curt Iles, The Pineywoods Manifesto. It’s is a collection of essays and life lessons for his four grandsons. Noah, Jack, Jude, and Luke Iles. He is currently blogging book chapters at his website,

Know Those Who Serve.

Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

-Jesus in Luke 6:31 ESV

His name was Raymond and we met when we were both about eighteen.

It was unlikely we’d cross paths, much less become friends. Raymond was an urban black man from Pineville, and I was a redneck fresh from the woods of Dry Creek.

He was the janitor for our section of Tudor Hall, the Men’s Dorm, at Louisiana College. I was a freshman, and he’d just went to work recently at the school.

I was brought up to be friendly, so I introduced myself to Raymond. I’d spent all of my teen summers working at church camp, doing custodial-style work. It had taught me that all work has dignity when done well, and that served as common ground for our friendship.

As we crossed paths daily, Raymond and I became friends. I think it happened because I learned his name when we met.

Our casual friendship continued for my extended five-year college stay, even as Raymond moved up in his department. His success didn’t surprise me. He was a conscientious worker who got along well with people.

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Thirty years later, I returned to Louisiana College as a trustee. One day walking across campus, I saw Raymond. Like me, he’d aged, his hair and beard now peppered with gray.  We greeted each other and laughed at how young we were when we first met.

Raymond was now the maintenance director for the College. It didn’t surprise me. He was a man of character and class who did his job and did it well.

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During my college years, I made it my goal to learn the name of every custodian, cafeteria server, and maintenance worker on the campus. It’s amazing how many friends you can make if you simply take the time to learn someone’s name.

As I once read, “The greatest sound in the world is someone else saying your name.”

A few years ago, I saw a hand-written sign in an African refugee camp:

“If you like people,

People will like you.”

It’s true. When we take time to know people, good things happen.

It goes along with the most famous words of Jesus, often known as The Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

When we acknowledge those who serve us, we are helping fulfill that verse. Everyone wants to be noticed and appreciated.  As I stated earlier, much of my work before and during college involved manual labor or menial service. It’s amazing how people treat you as if you don’t exist when you’re doing certain jobs.

I vowed then that no one would say that about me.

There’s a concept called The Waiter Rule. Employers will take a prospective employee to a restaurant.  They’ll carefully observe how the potential worker treats the wait staff.  It can be the determining factor on the hire.

How we treat someone who cannot immediately do something for us says a great deal about who we are.

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Grandsons, as you start a new school year, I want to challenge you to know the name of every service worker at your school. Greet them with the respect their age and service deserves.

You can do the same thing at our church. I’ve noticed at our church how the custodial staff moves into the auditorium as soon as the last amen is said.

Pick up any paper around you, take it to them, and introduce yourself. Get to know their name and learn about their lives.

It’s just good manners and it goes hand-in-glove with Jesus’ teaching of “Doing unto others . . .”



Curt Iles writes from his home in Alexandria, Louisiana.  The author of thirteen books, he blogs at

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