13 March 2009

Respect For The "Least"

Things I learnt away from home. I spent about two years away from home. I learnt quite a few valuable lessons. I've shared a couple, I thought I'd share still another.

I'm not sure why I picked this one from South Africa but I did.

When you analyse society, the working class can be divided into various categories. One of those categories comprises of those people who "serve". I put serve in inverted commas because, nurses serve but at they are fairly, well paid and they went to college in order to do what they do. I'm talking about waiters and waitresses, assistants at tills in stores and markets, those men and women who sell air time at booths, auxiliary staff, cleaners, gardeners, security guards, parking attendants, fuel station attendants, (I almost mentioned prisoners here but that wouldn't be quite right!), etc. Some of them are just trying to raise pocket money others actually need their jobs to survive.

The first thing to realise about those in positions of service is that they are not there because they necessarily want to be. They would get better jobs if they could, jobs with better pay and less hours. Their jobs are tough and stressing. No one would want to work so hard, for so little, but they have no choice.

Secondly, if you are not in this line of work, its not because you are smart or intelligent of hard working (per say), but you have a better job because God has allowed you to. You could have failed college, or been born to not-so-well-to-do parents or guardians, etc. So an important thing I learnt is not to look down on these people because I realised that if it t'was not for God's grace, I'd be in their shoes.

This dawned on me while I was with my Uncle and his family during my time away from home. I'd go into their living room and turn on the t.v or go get me a drink from the fridge and I kept thinking, "you know what? I'm able to live here, as comfortably as I do at my own home, not because I'm smart or because I know these people I'm staying with but because they know my parents! That's it. If I was not a child of my father, I wouldn't be here! The picture widened when I saw people who were less fortunate than me, people who worked long hours for peanuts. People who worked humbling jobs, jobs were you wait on fellow human beings, cleaning windshields or cleaning tables at restaurants or standing behind tills for long hours on end, etc. I realised that I wasn't where these people were because of God's grace period.

Now, these guys work long hours. I don't really blame fuel attendants or guys behind tills for being grumpy sometimes, I mean, they have probably been at the till for ages (or they are about to be) and they are tired and their thin account balance's keep flashing before their eyes as they work so hard. And there comes some stuck up individual behaving like the poor attendant is not a human being. I learnt while in SA to try not to be burdensome to them because God knows they have enough burdens of their own. I try to be considerate as I have dealings with them. I avoid causing them problems and making a fuss over things petty.

I also try to be polite. I avoid being rude and always thank them for their service. I could probably go further to greet them cheerfully as I approach them. If they seem rude and grumpy, I try to remain polite because I know that if I had a day like they have had or are about to have, I'd be pretty grumpy too! If they try to make small talk with me, I oblige. I try not to act uninterested. I smile and laugh with them. I apologise for any misunderstanding or mistake on my part.

Being a Christian is about, among other things, being different. Jesus said we must love our enemies and gave various reasons why (Matthew 5:43-48). One of the reasons he gave is worth some reflection. He said in essence that if we hate our enemies what difference would there be between the world and us? The world chooses to hate those who hate them. A Christian should be different.

Likewise, those in positions of service must be able to see something different between us and other customers. If we all treated them like the world does, what difference would there be between the world and us? That lady at the till should be able to say,"There's something about that man" or "There's something about that woman". "She's greeted me so cheerfully" or "That wonderful man always thanks me for my service." "There's something about him/her."

There must be something about me.