Sunday, November 21, 2010

Invisible Servants

Yesterday we had the delightful experience of having a kiddo "cast up her accounts" (had to use a new term I just discovered in a period novel!) in the middle of watching The Polar Express in Imax. Ugh. I readily admit that stomach issues make me shudder, and I was beyond thankful that Daddy was there to care for her.

This morning as I was reviewing our adventure, I was struck by one individual I ran into. I had been trying to locate garbage bags for soiled clothes. Several employees were less than helpful - cordial but, as Anne of Green Gables would say, lacking the imagination to find what I needed. Finally someone radioed the custodian. Enter a short man pushing the typical rolling cart fitted with garbage can, cleaning supplies, and the coveted garbage bags. Had I passed him on the street, he would not have stood out. He was a face with a job who would have blended into the background. Yet this man's behavior continues to sit in the forefront of my mind. He was generous with his supplies and service, yes, but he also freely gave encouragement. Telling him he may want to disinfect the bathroom, I apologized profusely for leaving him with any mess. We tried to clean up after ourselves the best we could, but still. I felt awful that someone else would have to deal with our yuckiness. I can't put into words this man's spirit. He fell over himself to assure me not to worry. It was his job. Repeatedly he said "That's what I'm here for." For this overwhelmed, grossed-out mama, his words and kindness soothed my soul.

As I was reflecting on the impact of our short interaction, I realized how many "invisible servants" are in my life. How many people I take for granted be they custodians for public restrooms, the man who pumps my gas and washes my windshield, the firemen I have never met but know are waiting, ready .... the people who make my life easier, safer and more pleasant. Because many of them we never see, it's easy to take them for granted. Our cultural mindset of self-entitlement doesn't help. Nor does the prejudice that folks in less than glamorous jobs are somehow below those with flashy careers. Honestly, if I walked into the theater and saw the ticket-taker guy, I would assume that he has a better job than the custodian. But let me tell you -- last night it was the custodian, like the Good Samaritan, who was a good neighbor.

This episode was a powerful reminder of several lessons. I draw too many conclusions based on appearances or social structure. I need to be mindful of those around me who make my life easier and more pleasant and teach my children to watch for those invisible servants. I want my kids to consider why the airport bathroom is clean, why there is food on the grocery store shelves, why garbage doesn't pile up in the streets. I want them to respect and appreciate the people we easily overlook. I realize they aren't going to learn such respect and gratitude from our world. I myself must model what I want to see in them. And hopefully, if we seek to apply these things God may use us to minister to a weary soul as a certain custodian encouraged mine yesterday.

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