When I was 14 years old, my neighbor, whose lawn I had mowed since I was eight years old, offered me a job working after school and on Saturdays at his dry cleaning business. Part of the work also included stocking the shelves of his men’s clothing store, which was right next door.
Less than a month into my new employment my neighbor, and now boss, called me into his office.
“I notice you talk a lot to the customers when you are stocking the shelves,” he stated.
Not certain if this was a good thing or bad thing, I remained silent.
He then continued, “You seem to be really good with people. Come with me.”
We walked out into the store and up to the cash register where the store manager was standing.
“Brian here is going to start working in the store. Get him a couple pairs of slacks, dress shirts and ties, and a new pair of shoes.”
And with that, the boss walked away. For the next eight years of my life after school, on Saturdays and in the summer all the way through high school and college, I worked in one form or another in men’s fashion.
“How’s it going? You doing okay with all the holiday shoppers?”
It’s a question I often ask folks working in retail this time of year. I feel a kinship with those who are working long hours with lots of customers, all the while listening to the same five Christmas songs played over and over.
The initial response from these folks in my experience is always pleasant and professional. And then, in my attempt to empathize with their situation, I share my history with work in retail, which almost always evokes a response of, “oh, you get it.” I always, always express my gratitude for all they’re doing so that the rest of us can do what we are hoping to do in bringing Christmas cheer to the folks in our lives.
I have the same feeling about all the good folks who serve in our faith communities this time of year. Additional services, additional gatherings, additional desire to make sure that everyone has some experience of the gift of Christmas.
I am acutely aware of the number of people and hours it takes to make all of this happen. Altar guilds, choirs, servers, acolytes, fellowship folks, community engagement folks and of course our priests and deacons give so much of themselves to ensure that others are able to experience the blessing of Advent – Christmas – Epiphany.
Let us all live in a place of gratitude for all those – from cashiers to choir members – who share their time and talent so that others may enjoy the blessing of this time of year.