Let me introduce myself. My name is Lemon Clayton Satterfield Jr. I grew up with that handle. My father passed it down to me. Way to stick it to me Dad!
I had to survive grade school by absorbing every “Lemon” pun you can imagine. I hated my name growing up. I preferred the initials, “L.C.,” but always had to use my real name in school. Kids teased me early on, but after a while it was few and far between. I did very well in school, and gained the respect of my peers through my loyalty and other principles. If you ask any classmates about me in my hometown of Clarksdale, Miss., they’d say, “Lemon? Yeah, he was one of the smartest kids in the school.” Or, “He was always good people. All the Satterfields were good people.”
I guess you could say that we had a pretty good reputation there in Clarksdale.
Now let’s fast forward a generation or two. New time, new place.
We’re at the Milwaukee VA Medical center, one year earlier. I’ve got a new title, and new uniform to boot. It’s tan and brown, and my title is “Housekeeping Aide or Housekeeper.”
When I first got the job, and people asked what I did for a living, I would reluctantly tell them. It sort of felt like that first day of school when I had to stand up in front of class and say, “My name is Lemon Satterfield.”
I didn’t feel like something I could be proud of. The title conjured up images of definitions I read in the dictionary, such as, “Biddy,” “Handmaiden,” or “Wench.”
Gosh, I don’t reckon I’d take kindly to any of them there names. There was also a time when I didn’t really care for the title, “Housekeeper,” either.
But what’s in a name? Better yet, what the heck is a name?
Webster’s Dictionary says:
1: a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing b: a word or symbol used in logic to designate an entity.
2: a descriptive often disparaging epithet <called him names>
I’d go so far as to suggest a name can be an indication of how we feel about someone or something. We all have nice pet names we affectionately exchange with those who matter greatly in our lives. On the other hand, we can relate to the titles we inflict upon those who violate our well-being.
A wise man once told me, “I don’t care what you call me, as long as you say it in a nice voice.” Actually he wasn’t a wise man. He was inebriated, but it sounded good and made sense.
When a person makes a positive impact on your life, you will see him in a positive light, and your perception of them will transfer to those with whom you come into contact. So you therefore establish a good reputation, or a good name, by the impression you leave upon others.
The housekeeping staff at the Milwaukee VA has experienced the spectrum of epithets, but I’ve gotta tell ya’, we’re getting better. Much better! I’ve witnessed an enormous shift in the perception of housekeepers. People say the name with a nice voice now! That can only mean our reputation is improving. People don’t frown as much when they refer to us. One reason is we have been working toward establishing and maintaining good relations with the hospital staff, as well as our Veterans and visitors.
By the way, you may have noticed the facility looking a little cleaner and brighter here lately. And by gosh, we aim to keep it that way.
We had a not-so-sparkling reputation not very long ago. We earned it by things we did or didn’t do. But that is past. We are moving forward with a renewed purpose, attitude and a regenerated sense of pride that had been sorely lacking. I’ve seen the attitude in our department transform into a spirit of enthusiasm in our approach to our varied tasks.
Our role here is vital. It is important not only that we recognize it, but that we demonstrate it by striving to provide the best possible service. Let us know if we’re doing something right or if we’re doing something wrong.
Believe me, we’d rather you call us nice names.
I’m Lemon Satterfield, housekeeper supervisor. On behalf of all our housekeeping staff, thank you.