The Way of Everyday Greatness

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.

5 replies »

  1. What a wonderful article. And it’s true, that being waited on by someone who truly connects with you is an amazing feeling. I love that you refer to him as a minister, as many Christians seem to have a check list of what it takes to be a Christian, a minister, which leaves out many truly loving, giving, spiritual people who just have different religious views.

    Jesus and other prophets showed us that the way of love is the way to live. How wonderful that Ryan can demonstrate that in his world. And how wonderful that you recognize that and shared it with us.


    • I believe we all minister to, from, and out of something–some idea philosophy, concept, way of being etc. Basically our ministry is how we are in the world. Early Christianity–before it was religiosicized–was simply called the Way. I imagine back then followers of the Way were more likely identified by how they were than by what they did. They were known by the fruits of their very being. I think if Jesus was walking around today he would use that very same criteria to know who was walking the Way with Him. And I think that not all of those who were with Him would be identified as Christians by church standards.


      • I really love your philosophy and take on Jesus. I met him in my back yard at age nine, when he came to talk to me, along with his disciples, to tell me what I was here to do. I have focused my life on spirituality and preparing for and doing that work all my life.

        My son is now an evangelical Christian and doesn’t talk to me because he feels my beliefs aren’t fitting for his church and beliefs?!

        I figured you must be more open minded to like my blog posts!


        • Thanks for trusting us with that part of your story. I’m sure you and your son are working together on some level even if on the surface it looks like you are not speaking. I’ve found that a lot of spiritual fitness manifests itself as resistance training. And generally speaking, it seems our closest relationships offer us the greatest resistance.


          • Great way of putting it! Yes, he and I have had MANY lifetimes together, so I’m sure on some level, he is still open to my love and connection..


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