I have been in a couple of places lately where all the cylinders did not seem to be firing: a warehouse store, a restaurant, an emergency room. What I mean is that people were moving slowly, if at all. If I tried to make eye contact with someone working there, what I mostly got was an immediate glance in another direction or at a computer screen. If I was persistent, I generally got short answers as the person stepped in a different direction.
I have been on the phone lately, talking to a couple of companies that seemed to have more important business to transact than talking to me: an internet store where I needed to make a return, a doctor’s office, a customer service entity. I say I was talking to these customer service representatives, but if I was striving for accuracy, I would say that I was on hold with these folks. And when I was actually engaged in conversation, it seemed to me that there existed a discernible lack of enthusiasm about the issues that had prompted my calls.
I launched a little problem-solving expedition a couple of weeks ago on behalf of a person who needed help getting some services to which we believed she was entitled. This required navigating a monolithic bureaucratic agency. Need I say more?
I entered the drive-through of one of our local establishments not long ago to order a breakfast sandwich and a large coffee – two Stevia, no cream. Twenty minutes later, I had my coffee – with cream and what I would judge to be no sweeteners. I did not drive away with a breakfast sandwich since they had run out. Understandable – it was already 7:30 am.
Now, believe it or not, my intent here is not to gripe or to tell anyone under the age of thirty how it was back in the day. No, what I want to report is that at every one of the establishments I have referenced above, I could also relay other very positive experiences – either eventually during these recent encounters or at some other call or visit. At every one of these enterprises, I have had occasions when someone greeted me with a smile or a cheery voice and worked diligently to serve or solve. Each time before the exchange ended, the person working with me checked to make sure that he or she had done everything they could to meet my needs. And they expressed their hope that the rest of my day would be wonderful, and they did it in a tone of voice that made me believe them.
How? Why? Explain it. I don’t know. Maybe I caught a few brand-new employees who hadn’t yet become cynical and irritated because of all the rudeness they endure on a daily, even hourly, basis. Perhaps. And in truth, I think what we most often pass forward is not the beautiful stuff. Rather, when someone treats us rudely, we are quite apt to treat the next person who walks in front of us in a foul way. Someone lies to us, we probably will be inclined to judge that the next person we meet is lying. Linda and I talk about this from time to time – she works in a world of people who have their hustle on, and yet it is crucial to her work that she not make any assumptions about the person who is walking into Hope Station. Because otherwise, we rob everyone of dignity. We can be strong and determined, but to banish trust and good-will from our encounters with our fellow-human beings is disastrous.
I think from time to time about an old Jimmy Buffet song about a happy streetsweeper:
He said, "It's my job to be cleaning up this mess
And that's enough reason to go for me
It's my job to be better than the rest
And that makes the day for me"
I’m not saying it is easy. I am not saying it comes naturally.
But it almost seems like living out faith to me . . .
being a light for our community . . .
being salt for our world.
Blessings and Peace,
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.