Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy New Year

I work in retail, managing a convenience store on steroids (20 gas pumps, 4 diesel pumps, 13 cooler doors, 4 registers, a brick oven pizza and deli).  It's a big operation, with two parrallel departments - a car wash and a detail shop.  Between all the departments there are over 100 employees - some know me well, but many only know me casually.  Brief interactions and occasional observations form the basis of an initial impression.

About a year and a half ago, I was at work, intensely focused on the pressing task at hand.  I don't recall precisely what it was.  Maybe balancing deposits, or entering invoices, or writing the schedule.  Whatever it was, my attention was wholly focused on the computer.  A few feet away, a detail shop employee was purchasing some junk food to carry him through his shift.  He looked over at me and said, "Phil, do you ever smile?"

It was an off-the-cuff comment, a casual observation, a simple question billowing out of one employee's first impression. This is how he saw me - focused, serious, intense, and dour.  It's not how I want to be perceived.  His question was an unintended rebuke, helping me see how my intense focus on managing the store well had eclipsed my joyful heart.  I didn't smile much at work.

More recently, we've been in the midst of a remodel.  We're adding a Tim Hortons to our existing food service.  To make some room, we decided to remove our flavor shots, an add on to the fountain machine that allowed you to squirt flavoring into your soda - vanilla, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, lemon, or lime.  It was a bit of a space hog.

I went to tackle disconnecting it.  I wasn't quite sure how to go about it, so I wiggled a bracket, which unexpectedly popped off.  A geyser of cherry syrup began spurting out, initially blasting me in the face.  Partially blinded by cherry syrup, I got the bright idea to stop the geyser by putting my hand over the spout.  This had the unfortunate effect of increasing the pressure of the geyser, like putting your thumb over a garden hose.  No longer shooting straight in the air, it was now spraying in a wide arc with increased forcefulness.  Deep red syrup was splattering the walls, the new Tim Hortons equipment, the blue prints, the ceiling (15-20 feet high), and, of course, me.

At this point, Karen, the deli supervisor, walked in and started laughing.  I joined in the merriment, laughing at the absurdity of the situation and my own clownish appearance.  As things settled down and the reality of the clean up set-in, Karen said, "It's a good thing you can laugh about it."

I suppose that's what I want - to be the kind of person who laughs at himself and his own embarrassing moments.  To smile freely and frequently.  To bring levity to the seriousness of work.  To exude joy, even under pressure.  To allow happiness to radiate through me. 

It's not just appealing, it's Biblical.  Joy and related concepts are spoken of well over 500 times in Scripture. It is approached from almost every conceivable angle.  It is commanded, expressed, longed for, described, anticipated, enacted, and promised.  And while much can be learned from a consideration of the individual occurrences, I will simply note that a concept mentioned this many times in this many ways indicates how weighty it is.  It is the meat of the dish, not a garnish.  Joy is not ancillary.

Two episodes can't tell the whole story.  But I do think they're indicative. I think joy shines through me more brightly than it used to.   I think my demeanor at work is more light than heavy.   I think my cheerfulness sets a tone for my employees and they respond in kind. And I'm fully anticipating that this will be a happy new year.  I hope it is for you too.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful reflections. Thanks for sharing! BTW I shared your poem with Kirsten, our 14 year-old, because she is on a unit in school studying poetry and she wanted to read any poems I had written (no one wants to read those) or knew of. You sent yours during that time and I passed it onto her. She loves it! And so did I!