Two weeks ago I wrote about my first position at the Old Country Store. Due to the hours of preparation for the Women of Hope Conference, I did not blog last week. (I will try to not let that happen very often, but I can’t promise it won’t happen again.) This week I want to tell you about some lessons learned while working at my second job at the Old Country Store - a job that I was told I would never have to do, but that God had decided would teach me humility.
I had a great rapport with my bosses. Mr. Taylor would often tease me about being short. He would say I could never work in the ice cream parlor because I wouldn't be able to see over the counter. I was just fine with that too, because it was messy back there, and the supervisor at the time could be very demanding. Frankly it looked like really hard work for very little appreciation. But….one day he was in a bind. They were hurting for workers in the ice cream parlor, and guess who got moved to work there? Me!
So I began my second position working in the ice cream parlor. Now I must describe our uniform that we wore as females at the Old Country Store. It was a red, white, and blue almost bandana print (made of little bitty flowers) jumper dress with a drawstring waist and a contrasting bandana print heart on the chest. The dress went to my ankles. I had invested in lovely black SAS shoes - yes, those orthopedic old lady shoes - because my feet hurt from standing on the hard floor for hours. Underneath this lovely ensemble, I wore a white turtleneck in the winter and a white t-shirt or nerdy short-sleeved collared shirt in the summer. Are you getting a good visual?
Now Mr. Taylor had been correct about my height being a challenge in working in the ice cream parlor. We dipped ice cream out of large containers. When the containers were full, I had no problems at all reaching into the freezer and dipping perfect dips of ice cream. Unfortunately whenever those containers were close to empty, I would have to pivot on my hip bones and go head-first into the freezer to dip the flavors. One day while attempting to dip out some rather hard chocolate chip from the very bottom of the container, I lost my balance and plummeted head-first into the freezer with my sad little SAS shoes flailing in the air. So the line of waiting customers just stood there helpless while I yelled for help. I was so thankful for the door that connected the ice cream parlor and the restaurant's kitchen. One of the kitchen workers heard my cries for help and came running. He rescued me from the freezer, but not from my complete humiliation. (I'm not sure I could look him in the eyes without blushing for weeks.)
Truthfully there wasn't time to feel sorry for myself because there was still a line of waiting customers. I just had to laugh it off and keep working. That was a really good lesson for me that night. So very often I want to stop working when things aren't going my way, but I just can't. That is life. Learning to laugh - or even to allow myself to cry for just a minute - and move on is important. Often God allows these crazy things to happen while I am trying to do His work. Am I going to stop doing His work just because something didn't go according to my plan? Or am I going to keep going because there is still work to do? Perhaps my plan wasn’t exactly His plan anyhow, and He was helping me make adjustments.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
Toward the end of my short time dipping ice cream, then Vice President George Bush chose our Old Country Store as a stop on his presidential campaign. Of course, we were all very excited when we received the news. Intense cleaning began throughout the entire property, and we added exhaustion to the excitement we felt. The seriousness of the occasion became clear when the Secret Service arrived a few days before the Vice President’s scheduled speech.
I worked in the ice cream parlor the night before the VP would arrive, and I had been briefed about the security protocol we would have to follow. The Secret Service had thoroughly swept the entire property for anything that could be a problem for the VP and sealed off all storage rooms and peripheral rooms.
I was assigned two gigantic agents who reminded me of NFL linebackers, who had been starved for a couple of days. These two formidable gentlemen in their stereotypical Secret Service attire sat on the bar stools at my ice cream counter eating three-scoop banana splits as quickly as I could make them. I would make one banana split for Secret Service Agent #1 and then make one for Secret Service Agent #2. At that point Agent #1 was ordering another. I think they each ate three banana splits! That equals NINE scoops of ice cream and THREE whole bananas. All the while, they did not make small talk or visit with me in any way. My southern hospitality felt a bit wasted on these men who were truly all business...while they gorged.
At one point, I had run out of one of the flavors of ice cream. So I was accompanied by an agent to the freezer. He removed his seal on the door and followed me inside. He watched me locate the correct flavor of ice cream. Then he rechecked the entire freezer for bombs or whatever they check for, and he resealed it after we left.
I have to tell you that I was a nervous wreck during that process. The whole time I thought, “I hope nobody has planted something in here.” I knew I was innocent, but they didn’t know that. The agents were not there to be my friends; they were there to protect the Vice President - who might and did become the President soon.
I was so rattled that I didn’t focus very well on my checklist as I was closing down the ice cream parlor. We used the old fashioned whipped cream dispenser that used air pressure to create the foam from heavy whipping cream. One important step on the closing checklist was to release the air pressure in the old fashioned whipped cream dispenser. Unfortunately my stress level distracted me from this very important detail. I unscrewed te lid of the fully pressurized whipped cream dispenser, and it exploded - EVERYWHERE! After all of that cleaning we had done for at least a week, there was whipped cream on everything and inside of everything, including that beautiful Wurlitzer juke box.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7
Soon I moved back to the gift shop, where each night I would exchange large bills for the servers' small bills from their tips. It didn't take me long to realize that they were making a lot more money than me. So I got up my nerve and talked to Mr. Taylor about my financial aspirations. Then I began my third position at The Old Country Store - as a server in the restaurant.
Of all of my jobs I have ever had, I have loved waiting tables the most. Yes, you read that correctly. I absolutely loved waiting tables. Once I figured out what I was doing, I loved it. Each night I got to meet people on a much more intimate level than just greeting them and taking their money at the candy counter, and there was no chance I would fall into the ice cream freezer. I learned that a smile and genuine effort went a long way to success in waitressing. This principle taught me quite a lot about the concepts of grace and mercy along the way, as customers tipped me sometimes when I didn't deserve it and when customers stiffed me when I had worked really hard.
Each Christmas Eve, the restaurant was open from 6:00 AM until
2:00 PM, serving only the breakfast buffet. I had worked many a Christmas Eve in the gift shop, as this was a huge holiday town tradition. Once I began working as a server, my family joined the tradition as well. When I say this was a town tradition, I mean just about everyone in Jackson, Tennessee, came to eat. The line would weave through each and every aisle in the 2,000+ square foot gift shop and out the door. Every server worked on Christmas Eve, and we worked hard.
I remember my first Christmas Eve working as a server. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not keep up with the multi-tasking needs of refilling drinks, clearing away plates, bringing tickets, and then bussing the empty tables. As soon as I would make drink refill rounds, a table would be asking for their ticket. Then another table would need attention. Ugh! I was trying so hard to make a good impression because all of the Shaw family were on site that day. After going to grab a coffee pot, I sprinted around the corner only to be horrified to see owner Clark Shaw bussing my table! Oh no! I just knew he would be so mad at me for not getting that done before he had to do it. I walked up to him, apologizing, and he said something like, "I'll bus tables. You just keep doing a great job taking care of the customers."
In that moment, I saw Jesus in him. I just kept thinking about Jesus with a towel around his waist, washing the feet of His disciples. The name Clark Shaw will always be synonymous with "servant leadership" to me. I had always like Mr. Shaw, but at that moment I truly respected him.
So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him….When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:4-5, 12-17
This past weekend I was blessed to visit my old job again and see how things have changed, and yet the important things have stayed the same. After 25 years, Mr. Clark Shaw has changed the candy counter to a self-serve arrangement, and the fudge is sold in the ice cream parlor. The souvenir section of the gift shop now is a lunch counter and bakery section of the restaurant.
While I was enjoying my lunch at the lunch counter, Clark Shaw walked through and shared with me the thing that has stayed the same. He shared how he looks to God to lead him in every step he takes with his business. We talked about the plans he has to improve the Old Country Store business and how he can shine Jesus’ love through his business. Clark Shaw’s love for the LORD has not wavered, and that gives me such joy. What a blessing to know that while many improvements and changes have happened to the workplace of my memory, this memory remains true and solid!
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:15-17
This trip to my roots reminded me of where I was and where I wish to go. I pray that no matter where I go I may be a light for God, glorifying Him with my choices, whether personal or business, for years to come.