Everyone knows how badly teenagers want to go to work, how they crave entry-level hourly jobs, and how they long to work in the food service industry. Yep, you’ve picked up on my sarcasm.
American teens are dreamers, and weren’t we all at that age? We wanted to create something, start a trend, build the next big thing, have friends and find adventure.
Depending on your generation, you either worked to build the fastest car, start the biggest rock band, conquer Super Mario Bros., or create the next internet sensation. Flipping burgers? You only did that because you had to.
So, when I dropped my teenage son off at his fast food job, I told him, “You are doing meaningful work today.”
He looked at me a little funny.
“Seriously, you are going to be the bright spot in someone’s day.”
His look became more inquisitive.
“Look, there are people that will soon begin their drive home after a long day. Others will be looking to spend time with family, and others will be eating to find comfort after hearing bad news,” I said. “And they will be coming into your restaurant to find what they are looking for. Feed them well, and be that bright spot.”
“Thank you, Dad,” he replied.
“It takes a special person to undertake the work of feeding people. I’m proud of you.”
He shut the door, entered the restaurant, and I drove off.
Okay, now that I read my own words, it looks a little sappy. Either that, or I just penned the latest “Family, isn’t it about Time” commercial. Nevertheless, I meant every word.
I have recently documented my recent health struggles, so I’m not endorsing emotional eating. However, I will tell you that on more than one occasion, the right fast food clerk, and the right kitchen crew have offered me relief on some dark days. Furthermore, they have fed me on a quick schedule when my time was short. And I appreciated their efforts every time.
Our kids are taught to aim for the stars, to seek careers where they can make a difference, to find meaning, purpose, and significance. They are taught not to settle for menial jobs, but to aim for greatness. Indeed, we want to encourage our kids to reach their full potential, and for most, that’s probably not in the kitchen of a fast food franchise.
But, if everyone is an astronaut, president, physicist, technology pioneer, and entrepreneur, then who will serve our food? If everyone is leading the next great social movement, who is caring for the patients in the nursing home? If everyone is discovering the cure for cancer, who is stocking the grocery stores?
If everyone is a teacher, who is cleaning the restrooms? If everyone’s a doctor, who’s filling the prescriptions?
You see, for our society to function, we need people in every role of our workforce, and our society will become great when every member of our workforce, from the service sector, to retail, to medical, to manufacturing, see their value and the importance of their work.
And the greatest companies in our society realize their role, and communicate their value to their workforce, who then reflect that conviction to their customers. That is why companies like ChickFilA and In-N-Out hold such high esteem in the fast food market, despite McDonalds having more locations. That’s why Whole Foods is such a revered brand, even though their prices are routinely higher than other grocery chains. That’s why Southwest Airlines is successful, despite having none of the frills of the other airlines.
These companies understand the role they play in our society, their inherent value, and they confer that value on their staff, who then internalizes it and represents it before the customers.
So, if you’re reading this, and you work in a fast food restaurant, you made a difference today, and you didn’t even realize it. You either did your job well, and were a bright spot in someone’s day (if so, congratulate yourself), or you did your job poorly and added to someone’s frustration. Either way, you made a difference.
If you’re reading this and you’re a CNA, then please know that you are probably the most important person in a patient’s care. Remember that, and bring them comfort.
If you work in a grocery store, you can greatly encourage someone who may be struggling emotionally, or may be feeling lonely.
If you are a doctor, you can save lives. If you are a lawyer, you can save freedoms. You get the point.
The point is, no matter what you do, you matter. And no matter what role you fill, you are needed, and you are valuable. And no matter what kind of day you’ve had, you’ve made a difference.
Therefore, as we perform our job duties today, let’s employ the words of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Because when you work, you’re not working for your manager, the shareholders, or even the customers. You are working for God, and His will for you is to do good to others.
May God bless you and encourage you in your work today.