Working as a teen in a fast food restaurant — and having to deal with disgusting humanity at 1 A.M. — has to be a character-building or character-demeaning activity.
We can go one way or the other — a lot depends on the make up of the character of the person, as well as other contextual matters.
To say repeatedly, “Sorry about the wait,” with sufficient sincerity, when it’s neither your fault, nor is the patron respectful, is approaching the heights of dignified human grace.
But, and we daren’t forget this, it’s a stepping stone to better places. With such a vision we need a breath of eternity in getting us from here to there (wherever “there” is).
Everything Has Meaning in the Eternal
As I considered a recent daytime visit to one of these restaurants — feeling for the young men and women behind the counter, at the pointy end of one ugly spectacle — I realised afresh the importance of a vision of life, distant yet satisfying.
Such visions get us through these awkward, even threatening, moments.
I recalled Paul’s charge:
“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
~2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NRSV).
That vision — the distant and holy one — is the real one, though it cannot be readily seen.
For the person behind the counter, even a slight cognisance on the dim though powerful reality of eternity will help. They’ll come to see that the meaning in present affairs is godly — however crude and appalling they might be.
Patience – Providing Meaning for Growth
Many people are paid to say, “Sorry about the wait” with a convicted sense of grace. It takes character to do that — a portion for which they ought to be commended for.
The purpose of growth is preparation for better things; the stepping stone to better places. But sometimes this ‘ugly’ place is all there is.
People, and particularly young people, can work in moderately disgusting or demeaning environments provided there’s a fervent hope for the future that they set their sights on. They don’t see it materialising next week or next month, but they believe it will occur.
This is the expression of faith in a real world context. To believe in what is not yet real, or even seen, is a hopeful faith.
Better it is for us to encourage these on their way — in the midst of the “sorry-for-the-wait” responses they’re required to give. Even better it is for us when we’re in restaurants to be served, courteously; that we’d treat the waiting staff as we’d like to be treated.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.