Monday, July 17, 2006


One of the best lessons in service I learned was from a foreman in a foundry I worked in for a few summers. One year I was the fill-in janitor while the regular janitor dealt with a death in the family. The lunchroom in this place was a microbiological nightmare, to put it mildly. But what made it worse was that the employees would intentionally do thinks like fold candy wrappers into small squares and wedge them into the table just for fun. After a day or two of this, I let go about how it "wasn't my job" to clean up after people who intentionally make our jobs harder and live like pigs.

It was then that the foreman made a comment to the effect that we don't get to define our job. We get to define how we handle the job. And that stung. It still does.

Reading "Practice the presence of God" by Brother Lawrence is inspiring. But I suspect the other monks didn't intentionally make his job harder. But even if they did, he was working for God, not them. And that was the lesson I learned one hot summer in 1990.

Servanthood is an issue between us and God. The people around us are players but ultimately it is a spiritual issue.

I learned a lesson from an unlikely place. And 16 years later I still remember it.