Most of us start out doing a job that we’d rather not do for the rest of our lives: flipping burgers, mowing lawns, cashiering… And most of those jobs entail a hefty amount of customer service. We spend a lot of time in contact with other people, smiling (sometimes through our teeth) while we do everything we can to make sure that they walk away happy. We’ve heard the age-old assertion that “the customer is always right,” which sometimes makes us want to stab our eye out with a fork, and there are some days when we wonder if we’ll really be able to bite our tongues so we don’t get fired. As awful as these type of jobs can be at times, we really gain a lot from doing them, even if it’s only to put ourselves through college. I’d actually say that our world would be a much better place if everyone worked in a service job at least once in his life. Here’s why:
Working in a service job completely changes your perspective. It makes you more aware of what it is like to be that person waiting the table or checking out the order when everything is going wrong despite his valiant efforts to make it otherwise. I know for a fact that I have become significantly nicer to any waiter or cashier that I come upon- even when I’m frustrated with the way the transaction or interaction is going- because I know what it’s like to be in his shoes. And the fact of the matter is, it is rare that the person doesn’t care about what he’s doing and much more common that things just simply aren’t going his way. Being a service worker makes you appreciate the fact that others, just like you, are doing the best they can. Patience and good tips are always appreciated.
Along similar lines, service workers are humans too. They make mistakes, they have bad days, and they have feelings too. People often forget all of these things because they are so busy worrying about getting that drink refill or rushing out of the store to make it to the next thing. People in the service industry are taught to be overly apologetic any time that a mistake, even an honest one, happens (because mistakes are not acceptable) and are required to have a smile plastered on their faces from nine ’til five no matter what happens in between. This is not only unfair but unrealistic. Service workers are allowed to be upset when a customer is unnecessarily rude, even if they’re not allowed to retaliate. And working in a service job makes you appreciate what a predicament that is. To realize that although you have feelings, and you’re entitled to them, people can be too self-absorbed to notice them and rarely will you ever get the chance to express any discontent…
…which leads me to appreciating the difficulty of “service with a smile” and dealing with “the customer is always right.” Because any person who has ever worked a service job can think of at least one instance in which they would have liked nothing better than to have a screaming match with a customer, or better yet, bop him in the nose. Our culture permits bad behavior on the part of customers by promoting the mentality that service workers are meant to be docile when it comes to a customer’s demands- however unreasonable they may be. People who work in the service industry are, therefore, likely to be much more pleasant customers because they know what it’s like to deal with unruly ones. For example, I’m not liable to complain unless there’s a really big problem. And while it may disgruntle me to deal with a less-than-enthusiastic worker, I’m more likely to chalk it up to factors other than my presence and let it go, rather than making a big deal out of it and exacerbating the problem. People in the service industry don’t have to be push-overs, but they understand that interactions between worker and customer are much more enjoyable when both parties are being courteous and respectful to one another.
Working in service jobs can also make you appreciate the jobs that you really would prefer not to do. It gives you new respect for the people who do them anyway- especially if they have no other choice. Because the reality is, plenty of minimum-wage workers are doing all they can to not be minimum-wage workers, including working their butts off at that minimum-wage job in order to go to school to get out of the minimum-wage job. Being in a situation where these people are your co-workers, or maybe where you even are one to an extent (I, for example, am working part-time at a low-paying job to put myself through college), makes you realize that not only do we need these people to make the world go round (someone has to check out your groceries) but also that the type of job you have does not define who you are as a person. Having a low-paying job is not a direct correlation to education or work ethic like many people would like to think it is.
And finally, Jesus set the example that we are to serve one another. At the Last Supper, when He got down on His knees and washed the feet of his disciples, He commissioned them to be servants: to each other and to the world. Of course, He didn’t say, “Everyone needs to work a service job at least once in his life,” but He did teach us the importance of serving one another. If Jesus can do it, so can you.