Humans of ‘Haha’

[Added Aug. 4, 2017: Listen to an audio recording of Emma Melling’s interview with John Carlson from March 26, 2016.]


Custodian John Carlson and Commons and Title II Coordinator DeLise Kroening add meaning to the Minnehaha community through displays of love and kindness towards students and faculty. 

The desk was not uncommon, defined simply by the way it stood guard to the black leather chair behind it. Though the people walking across the Minnehaha Commons and slipping through doorways changed constantly, the woman who sat at the desk was always there.

Her dark eyes lit up as students rushed by, en route to various destinations. Her dark hair shifted slightly as she lifted her head to say ‘hello.’ Each day brought different events, but with each passing student, her glasses moved upwards slightly and a joyful smile came across her face.

“I try to smile and say ‘hi’ to almost everyone,” said Commons and Title II Coordinator DeLise Kroening. “I want the kids to know that I am approachable, and if anyone needs somebody to talk to, I’m sitting here all day long.”

Kroening has been working at Minnehaha for two and a half years. At first, she found the position to work a job with the same hours that her granddaughter was attending Minnehaha’s Lower Campus. Now, Kroening has found a fitting place in the Minnehaha community, a place recognized by many of its members.

“One dad, I didn’t recognize him and he came in,” said Kroening. “He said, ‘I just want to let you know how much I appreciate how careful you are about letting people in. I know that us parents see you as our kids’ guardian angel.’”

As students’ ‘guardian angel,’ Kroening is in charge of watching the doors and knowing who is entering and exiting the building. As Title II Coordinator as well as Commons Coordinator, Kroening is in charge of filling out any paperwork required for a teacher to attend a workshop or conference paid for through the Title II program. Though Kroening admits things can be dull at times, she finds satisfaction in her job and describes the parts of it that she has grown to love.

“Talking to people [is my favorite part of this job]. I love it when students stop at my desk and chat with me and when parents come in, I love talking to them and other staff members too,” she said.

Through the act of simple conversations, Kroening hopes to show God’s love to students and leave a lasting mark on the Minnehaha community.

“I hope that when I smile at [students] and say ‘hello,’ that if they are maybe in a bad mood or having a bad day, that will cheer them up,” said Kroening. “Just to know that there is somebody there that genuinely cares about them and wants to make sure that they have a good day. I also hope that when kids look at me they see that I want to be Jesus with skin on. My friendliness is because I genuinely have that agape love for everybody.”

This agape love that Kroening wishes to share with those she encounters can also be seen in other areas of the M.A. community.

* .    * .    *

An hour or so after the final bell has rung, an 80 year-old man is seen moving down senior hallway, tugging a large trash can behind him. His hands know the rhythm of monotonous work, his eyes bright with kindness, his mouth ready to start a conversation with whoever may be around the corner.

Making his way into the Campus Room, the man pulls a small plastic package from under his arm and holds it towards a student whose books are open on a table.

“Here’s a Dilly bar,” said custodian John Carlson. “Keep going. Do a good job. Get good grades. Have a Dilly bar.”

In his 13 years working at Minnehaha, Carlson has become known for this particular act of kindness; handing out Dilly bars to students waiting for rides or doing their homework.

While Carlson is currently a janitor at M.A., he also attended Minnehaha during his time in high school and watched his children graduate from the school as well. In 2003, Carlson was given the opportunity to work at his old school.

“My wife Barbara saw a note in the church bulletin,” said Carlson. “[Minnehaha] needed a janitor and I said, ‘Sure, why not? I’ve spent half my life there I might as well work there too.’ I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful job for me because I still have a lot of energy.”

Carlson’s job consists of a variety of janitorial tasks, such as emptying trash cans, vacuuming classrooms and cleaning blackboards. While the job is laborious, Carlson has discovered that, similar to Kroening, his favorite part is his interactions with students.

“I’m kind of an outgoing person and if I see students standing around I like to say ‘hello,’” he said. “To do the job is important. I’ve got to put in a good day’s work, and I try to do that. But, I also enjoy conversing with the students.”

Carlson and Kroening are two examples of members of the Minnehaha community that may ordinarily be overlooked, but that truly do add to the school’s atmosphere. And, though Kroening and Carlson have differing jobs and personalities, they both wish to leave a mark on the Minnehaha community.

“[I want to teach students] friendliness and a Christian attitude,” said Carlson. “I would want to leave [a mark] on the importance that education has, but also to lead a good life.”

Kroening has similar wishes.

“If people say the name DeLise Kroening, [I want them to say], ‘Oh, she’s that Godly woman who was always so friendly. She always would take time to say ‘hello’ or be kind.”



About Emma Melling

Emma is a senior staff writer and editor-in-chief of the Talon. She is passionate about journalism, writing, literature, and French. Emma plans to attend Bethel University in the fall and double major in English and Journalism. She enjoys writing features on arts and human interest topics and loves listening to people's stories. Her hobbies include reading, hiking and spending time with family.

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