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Why we always tip the maid -- a thought from a retiring Soldier

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rob Croskey
  • U.S. Special Operations Command
I'm approaching the sunset of my career. Soldiering has been a magnificent ride, packed with wonderful memories and friendships. The U.S. Army assigned me to test the Patriot Missile System at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico (which later knocked SCUDs out of the sky). I've enjoyed a cold beer with NATO allies in a Black Forest Tavern in Germany, swum at Waikiki Beach, marched on the Plain at West Point, met a plane at a freezing airport in Norway and accompanied a four star general to the signing of an international agreement. I've repelled from helicopters, parachuted from a C-130 under a starlit sky, and commanded the first Fitness Training Company at Ft Benning, Georgia, run by eleven incredibly talented drill sergeants. I've served as the project officer to finish the Combat Convoy Video, instructed soldiers in Special Operations at Ft Bragg, and been a friend and associate of some of the finest men and women that donned a uniform (in all services). To be part of the US military has been the greatest honor of my life. As the younger generation takes over, I wish all of you Godspeed.

I don't pretend to know everything, but here's a single thought gleaned from my military adventure: "Always tip the maid". When you're leaving your temporary duty, and you leave your hotel room, you have a choice of whether or not to leave a tip. Many people do not. Some don't even know to consider it.

But as a representative of the US military, I hope you'll leave a few dollars for the person who cleans your room. It's easy not to tip him/her. It's easy not to think about it. Odds are you'll never see her again. Odds are, in fact, you didn't see her during your entire stay. Odds are your boss didn't order you to tip the maid.

Nevertheless, tipping her is the right thing to do. It's part of her wage. It's how she cares for her children. So it benefits her. And it sets you apart as a person who does the right thing, even when there is no immediate, tangible benefit to you. Tipping the maid is also part of the military culture; knowing what is right, and doing what is right. That's right: it's a duty.

As a plebe at West Point, I learned the "book" definition of duty: "doing what ought to be done, when it should be done, without being asked or ordered to do it." Put another way, duty is the internal awareness that guides your decisions when you have not been given guidance. (Closely akin to duty is conscience). The concept embraces being attentive to those around you, attention to detail. It suggests that you are aware of the needs of others. It suggests a moral compass. If you're a doctor, it means caring for a patient when you would rather vacation. If you're a lawyer, it means taking care of your clients even when it's inconvenient and if you don't get paid. If you're in the military, it means putting the needs of your brothers and sisters in uniform ahead of your own so that the mission gets done.

There are many wonderful lessons about successful living that the military teaches. But one that I hope I remember, as I return to the civilian world, is to "always tip the maid." It's a simple duty.