When I think about what characteristics I would like to cultivate most as a minister, I think of Ryan who works at a local Cumberland Farms, a New England chain of convenience stores. He is a minister in the living church that is the world. Ryan, proudly serving customers for 1 year. I call Ryan a minister because at least in the context of his job, he is everything I hope to be as a minister. When I see Ryan, I can’t help but smile. If I’m in a sour mood for one reason or the other, that sour mood cannot exist in his presence. I usually go to Cumby’s for gas because it is close and it is the best deal around, but I don’t always go in to purchase anything even though they also have the best deal in town on their drinks as well. This is starting to sound like a Cumby’s commercial. It isn’t. Anyway as I was saying, I don’t always go in, especially since I downloaded their app that allows me to pay for my gas from my phone. Dang, maybe this is a commercial or maybe Cumby’s is that awesome. Ok. Let’s try this again. I don’t always go in there. But when I see Ryan I do. Even when I don’t want anything, I go in. The dude just brings out a smile and makes gray days bright.
To certain ears it might sound like I’m in love with this guy, but the fact is that I have to give credit where credit is due. The guy just has something that I once had in abundance but have let slip in recent years. I can’t really articulate it, but I know it when I see it. It’s something I’m working to regain. If pressed, I’d describe it as an ability to encounter people as if it were the first time no matter how many times you’ve seen them in the past. It’s something little kids have and Ryan has seemed to have retained. Every time Ryan greets me it is with both familiarity and newness. As far as the context of the store is concerned, it seems as if he’s like that with everyone–even with his coworkers with whom he spends long hours. At least in front of the customers, which is all I have to go on, he treats everyone with courtesy and awareness. He pays attention to them. But he does so in a way that he lets them be them and he is him. What the people bring to the situation doesn’t seem to stick on him. I can just tell.
Before I saw him the last time, I had just heard two women conversing about their jobs and their coworkers. One woman loudly proclaimed her disdain for her coworkers and said that as soon as she saw them she could just feel how much she hates them. I bring this up to demonstrate that when a person let’s the junk stick to them, it shows in the way they are with others. I know that if I didn’t tell the truth about how I feel, a lot would stick to me. Unlike many people, I don’t say I am fine if I feel lousy. I either avoid people when I’m feeling that way or I warn them. I’m sure Ryan is human and stuff gets to him too, but I know I am not the first person to ever see a customer service person at the end of their shift and feel like I just met a person who just received a death sentence. Many of them even act like they resent customers for interrupting them. But I’ve encountered Ryan at the end of his shift and he was so welcoming, I thought he had just punched in. And that presence is what I’d like to keep cultivating in myself again. It’s one of the most vital things to being of service to others. When Jesus’ disciples wanted to know what it took to be great, he told them that the one who serves would be the greatest among them. If being of service is greatness, then Ryan is an example of the greatest among us.