Non-stop, the press reports that the US Postal Service has fallen on hard times, so it really wasn’t a stretch for my expectations to be low. I stood waiting at a local Post Office, a tiny, drafty storefront with just one customer station. I’m amazed they keep such Podunk places open; but then ironically, I still appreciate such convenience. The clerk was working to help the lone customer in front of me, but she was plodding, slow as molasses in January. I was annoyed by the worker’s sluggish pace and oh-so-obvious gift of gab. Certainly, she could move faster and cut with all the superfluous chatter. Some of us have places to go and tasks to accomplish today. Her every move seemed SO slow, and yet accompanied by joy-filled gibberish about everything—from the freezing temp’s to her mild jealousy over a coworker’s trip to Florida. All the while, she was ridiculously focused on serving this woman’s every postal need. Finally, when it appeared all was finished and it would be my turn, I heard, “Oh, now, do you need any stamps? The rate hike happens next week.” “Why, yes, I do,” replied the patron. “Thanks so much!” While maintaining a cool exterior, I grit my teeth. I was about to lose it in exasperation. When will it be MY turn?!
Upon further review, three simple, but powerfully important perspectives are present in this little scene.
First, my methodical clerk believed she was to serve the person right in front of her. I can’t help but recognize, intrinsically woven into this clerk’s work purpose is serving others, aiming to add real value. (And why did I find this so irritating? —a sure sign of my own rank selfishness. Despicable ME!)
Second, she placed cultivating relationships first, over the robotic, just get-‘er-done approach that runs rampant. In retrospect, kudos to post office lady for talking it up and putting a passionate priority on the person right in front of you! Kudos to the USPS for encouraging such relational focus in your team members!
Third, my uber-conversationalist clerk has obviously learned to enjoy her work while serving others. Can this really be? Is this actually legal? Dennis Bakke has written a rich resource, extolling the practice of joy at work. Many of us were taught, our upbringing implied, or perhaps we mistakenly inferred, that work was a wicked result of the curse of sin, a rascally consequence of the biblical Fall (Genesis 3). In reality, work was part of God’s wonderful, original framework. He personally accomplished amazingly good work with the Creation in Genesis 1. Humans were created “in his image” (Gen. 1:26-27). Since we first encounter God as the ultimate worker, we must conclude he planned for us to be productive, creative workers as well. Genesis 1 makes it clear that at the wrap-up of each day, he found great joy, as he repeatedly labeled his work “good” and “very good.” He assigned the humans to “work” the Garden (Gen. 2:15). Certainly, the consequences delineated in Genesis 3 include work becoming more sweaty and arduous. However, in light of God’s original intentions, we dare not conclude that God intended our perspective on work to be perpetually horrific, a kill-joy outlook. Consider this: a part of Christ’s redemption includes our attitude in our work. Just last week, Pope Francis tweeted: “If we live the faith in our daily life, then our work too becomes a chance to spread the joy of being a Christian.” There’s a wave of fresh realization—our perspective can become more like my exemplary postal worker.
Finally, it was my turn at the P.0. My package was quickly stamped. I paid. She smiled and talked. “I’ve worked for the Post office for 37 years. I really enjoy my job!” I grinned and replied, “It’s obvious; you exude joy! Thanks so much.” She beamed a big smile, and so did I. I was extra-glad that a few moments before, I didn’t go postal.
Dennis Bakke, Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job, (PVG, 2010).
@Pontifex, Jan 21