I love the new show Undercover Boss. High-ranking executives go "into the trenches" in order to determine what's working well and what needs improvement within their company. Occasionally, the executive works with a grump who needs some softening, but always the undercover boss discovers just how hard "entry level" people work. Always, the character of the honest, decent, hard-working American shines.
In the most recent episode, we met a groundskeeper at an amusement park who'd been working the 3am shift for 16 years... The family home had recently caught fire, displacing his wife and their five children - two of whom were adopted because "it just doesn't seem right for us to have children and not be willing to provide a life to other children without families". We met a young man whose been in love with the amusement park since he was two years old, and working there for something like six years. He is a ticket taker who designs roller coasters on his lunch break! He is creative and passionate, and he believes that the guests' day should begin with a warm smile and greeting at the ticket booth. His dream job? CEO of the company that owns and operates the park.
What I marvel at each week on Undercover Boss is the reminder that there are employees at every level who are creative, passionate, hard-working, sacrificing, committed, honest, do-whatever-it-takes people. Sadly, men and women in suits or glamorous offices are often viewed as successful, while those in entry level or manual labor positions are overlooked or even mistaken as lazy, uneducated, irresponsible or underachieving.
I recently had the privilege of working "in the trenches" at my church. I filled in as the receptionist while our real receptionist took a well-deserved vacation last week. I answered phones, greeted visitors, laminated, cut, cut and cut some more for our Children's Ministry, folded bulletins, put address labels on a mailing, etc... I spent a lot of time with our custodial staff, whom I'd never even met before. Lunch was the best! I ate everyday with my new custodial friends and the church's hospitality coordinator. We had meaningful discussions about ministry, missions, life, seminary and God's word. We even played Bible trivia - seriously, at work! The setting itself made it safe and acceptable - getting to discuss such things at work - but it was the people I was so moved by. These are gifted, passionate, knowledgeable, compassionate, experienced people! Missionaries. Serious students of God's word. True servants. Truly inspirational. They may work with a mop, but they are not doing it for the almighty dollar but for our almighty God.
Years ago I knew a mother who was disappointed in her son's job choice... She broke down one day and shouted that she did not send him to college so that he could become a UPS truck loader. That is one hard job - one that not everyone can do!! But this is not uncommon - parents encouraging their children to go to college for "better" jobs... Most of us lovingly tell our children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, but the jobs we typically throw out tends to be professional ones: doctor, teacher, scientist, astronaut.
People are often confused by my husband's decision to be a college-degree-holding electrician. Every lay-off invites well-meaning friends to encourage him to use his degree to do something "better" or "more stable". But, I cannot tell you how often God has affirmed that Bryan is exactly where he should be. Bryan feels called to be "in the (construction) world but not of it". It is his honor to share his faith with friends he makes on the job - a place where it is not unheard of for God to be mentioned more often to swear than to praise. And, as our boys watch their daddy return home in his hardhat and dirty overalls, they clearly see that there is honor in working hard, following God's call, and doing what it takes to provide for your family. There is no doubt that Bryan is meant to use his tools for a living.
We are all called to a different purpose... When we follow God's call, we are working for Him. That is an honor that cannot be surpassed by any amount of money or esteem.
Lord, help our family to always seek your will and respond. Use us to make a difference in your world, whatever that involves. When we are tempted to stray into our own desires or refuse your will out of fear or greed, may we be reminded of your greater, perfect purpose. Thank you for the immeasurable blessings that have come from obedience. Amen.