“I wake up pumped that I get to go to work. It’s a perfect fit for me.”
You might assume that Dave Collins spends his days in a high-powered, prestigious profession, but the Colorado native’s job is simply to keep a hotel lobby clean and answer room calls. Collins, 57, is a housekeeper at the Denver Marriott, a 600-room business hotel next to the Colorado Convention Center.
His joy in serving Marriott guests starts with his own journey. Two years ago, Collins reached a low in his battle with alcohol abuse. He lost his job, then his home, before checking into the Denver Rescue Mission, a large faith-based nonprofit.
“I shouldn’t even be alive for all I did,” Collins recently told me. “God had a plan for me, though. As Jerry Garcia said, ‘What a long, strange trip it’s been.’ Everything I’ve gone through has been to make me who I am and put me here to serve others.”
As someone who has known life without a place to live, he understands others wanting a place to call home, even if for one night.
Collins, the son of a military father, has lived most of his life in Colorado, growing up near the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He worked warehouse jobs for close to 25 years before his renewal of faith and transition to Marriott.
Kindness exudes from Collins’s face as we meet over lunch at the hotel lobby café. Housekeepers, front desk staff, and waitstaff stop by to say hello. Collins, who celebrated one year on the job last month, is like a celebrity among his co-workers.
“When does a job feel meaningful? Whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others,” writes contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton.
Generating delight and reducing suffering is at the center of Collins’s work. Hospitality is an industry, but for Collins it’s also a posture. Sharing the Latin root word as hospital and shelter, hospitality defined simply is caring for people. Collins cites God’s admonitions to Israel to provide for sojourners and travelers as the primary source of motivation for his own work. Throughout the Old Testament, he notes, we read countless examples of God instructing his people to make provisions for sojourners. For those on the path from one place to another.
Collins serves guests in the ways he has experienced Christ serving him on the cross and in the ways fellow Christians have demonstrated hospitality. The community at Denver Rescue Mission helped him rekindle his faith and gave him shelter when he had none. Their aptly named Work Therapy program introduced Collins to housekeeping.
Also significant in Collins’s life has been Fellowship Denver, an Acts 29 church founded in 2006. He credits the church’s small group for much of his progress. They helped him purchase clothing for his Marriott interview. Each week, he joins the group to study the Bible, pray, and enjoy good food.
“Dave has such gratitude for God’s grace and the miracle God’s worked in his life,” said small group leader Patrick Creedon.
Cleaning hotel rooms can be dirty business. Spring breakers and partiers show fleeting concern for the housekeepers responsible to clean up after them. From Colorado’s rowdy April 20 (“4/20”) celebrators to friends looking for the quintessential “hotel party,” staff see it all. Collins has encountered rooms packed with extra sleepers, intoxicated guests, and everything in between.