Photo: Letitia Baccoli
The Humblest Job, the Highest Service
Mercy Sunday Volunteer Couple Exemplify Giving Spirit
They perform one of the most vital jobs on Eden Hill during Divine Mercy Sunday. Without their service, the day would suffer tremendously, as would the thousands and thousands of pilgrims.
It's a job no one wants. It's a job most everyone takes for granted. It's the humblest job on the Hill that day.
They clean the toilets.
Mike Baccoli, owner of Southern Berkshire Janitorial Service, has been cleaning the port-a-johns and inside toilets on Divine Mercy Sunday for the past 12 years, joined by his wife, Holly, and usually one of their employees. The company receives money for the employee only; Mike and Holly donate their time.
Their work begins the night before, when they stock each of the 130 port-a-johns with two rolls of toilet paper. The next morning, they are on Eden Hill at 8, ready to begin their work. During the day, the cleaners will service each port-a-john three times, cleaning up and replacing supplies. Do the math: 130 port-a-johns x 3 cleanings each = 390 visits. When it's just the two of them, as it was last year, Holly and Mike service 195 johns apiece.
"The first time I did it with Mike," says Holly, "I swore I would never do it again. But the next year I was back, and now each year when Divine Mercy Sunday comes around, I look forward to doing it again. It's an act of mercy to clean out johns, a sacrifice, but it's a sacrifice you want to do because you get joy from doing it."
When asked if he feels he's making a contribution to Divine Mercy, Mike says, "I definitely do. Somebody needs to do this job, and no one else wants it. Arthur [Dutil, maintenance manager for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception] is happy to see us every year because otherwise he'd have to find someone else. It's a tough job. You're out all day in the elements. If the weather isn't good, you're getting cold and wet. It's messy. It's stinky. Last year, we were covered with mud from head to toe. Yet when Arthur calls, I can't say no."
Holly and Mike agree that the best part of the job is the many pilgrims they meet.
"The people are really nice," Holly says. "They'll say, 'Bless you for doing this' or 'You are an agent of God's mercy.' They're appreciative of what we do. It's a humble job, no question, but nobody puts you down because you're cleaning toilets. On other [commercial] jobs, people can be condescending. You can see them thinking, 'Is that all she's doing with her life?' But doing this type of work makes you realize you shouldn't put people down, no matter what they do. If they do it well and with dignity, they're as important as the CEO of a big company."
Mike echoes his wife's comments, adding, "The people make it pleasant. They can't do enough to thank us. For me, that's worth a lot. That's my pay for the day."
After the last confession is heard, after the final prayer wafts up to God, after the notes of the last song disappear into the surrounding mountains — and even after the final bus has left Eden Hill — Mike and Holly still have their toughest task ahead of them. They will wait in their van until everyone has left and make one more visit to each of the johns to empty them out.
They volunteered to do this after workers came one year to remove the rented port-a-johns. They had not been emptied, and the ripe contents spilled on the lawn. The benefits of extra fertilization notwithstanding, Mike and Holly decided that from then on, they would assume responsibility for that job, too.
How characteristic of these two decent people, who, in taking on Divine Mercy Sunday's toughest task as man and wife, empty themselves out for God.
The have the humblest job. They give the highest service.
Isn't that what mercy in action is all about?