I used to clean toilets.
At sixteen years old, I started at the bottom rung of the fast food restaurant ladder. My first job was as a crew person at a chain restaurant. If there were no customers to serve, my secondary duties consisted of cleaning base boards, sweeping and mopping the floor, washing dishes, taking out trash, and cleaning up the bathrooms. Yuck… but I didn’t complain – it was part of the job I signed up for. Soon, I was a trainer, responsible for teaching others the details of restaurant maintenance and upkeep. After my eighteenth birthday I made shift manager with the responsibility of running one of three shifts a day at a profit while keeping the store clean and orderly and providing excellent customer service in 90 seconds or less. There was a progression of details I needed learn in order to operate the business, but my overall training began with the most menial.
These years provided my true foundational business education.
Had it been up to me, I would have been interning at an advertising agency during high school – an unpaid errand girl learning all about the artifices of the world. But my choice jobs didn’t want me. My guadian at the time, an aunt, was certain a fast food chain would not turn me down. She was so determined to get me working she drove me to the restaurant, made me fill out an application while she waited for me, and assured the hiring manager she would pick me up after later shifts. I think I was hired on the spot. In my aunt’s opinion, at age sixteen, I was becoming a young woman and needed to be able to finance my personal needs as well as my school expenses.
This was my first lesson on personal financial responsibility.
Today I work for one of the top fifteen companies in the Fortune 500 – in a support role on the executive floor – as I’ve been told numerous times, it doesn’t matter that I’m an assistant, it matters that I am well-positioned.
Supporting people was not my idea of a career path when I was in college – I was focused on the management and ownership tracks. However, this unplanned administrative assistant career has been the best possible training for me. With all sincerity I say God has brought me to where I am and along the route of His choosing for His purposes in my life.
The details make up the whole.
Focusing on the details of life – how I live, who I share my time with, what I think and how I share my beliefs – allows for a greater spotlight to be placed on my life in general… or rather I won’t be ashamed when the spotlight hits me because my shadowy areas are just as clean as my well-lit areas.
What I learned from my restaurant years is that a dirty restroom can ruin an otherwise perfect visit. Crumbs on the floor can invite a trail of ants that will in turn have parents snatching up their children and running from the restaurant. What I’ve learned from my corporate years is that a hospitable spirit and gracious personality will open more doors than any degree will. At this level, everyone has some impressive education or experience, but not everyone has an impressive attitude or character.
We can understand God’s plans for us better when we look back and see what He has done for us, what He has brought us through, and what lessons He is insistent we learn from repetitious situations in our lives. I can tell you now, even though I am not sure what my next or final roles will be here on earth, I am certain that they will be a culmination of everything I’ve learned and experienced up to that point.
Life… everyday life, full of details we pay little attention to, is the beginning of our ministry to others in the Body of Christ. You may think you have nothing worth sharing, but I assure you, your life is a beacon to someone within elbow or shouting distance.
“The people should not think that small beginnings are unimportant. They will be happy when they see Zerubbabel with tools, building the Temple. (These are the seven eyes of the Lord, which look back and forth across the earth.)” ~ Zechariah 4:10