The Old Country Store sits on the interstate between Memphis and Nashville, right along the tour bus route of those taking the pilgrimage from Graceland to the Grand Ole Opry. The anniversary of Elvis' death and the week of his birthday were always extremely busy with tons of tour buses coming and going. Man, those tour buses were the bread and butter of both the restaurant and the gift shop! Those crazy Elvis fans would buy just about anything pertaining to Elvis, probably because our souvenirs were waaay cheaper than the ones in the Graceland gift shop.
I remember one particular busload of Norwegian Elvis fans that came through. (You did, indeed, read that correctly. Elvis fans made this pilgrimage from all over the world. My personal favorites were the Japanese Elvis fans.) Several of them were dressed in replica white Elvis jumpsuits, complete with fringe and rhinestones. You would think this was weird enough. But wait….it got weirder. Someone had left a microphone on in the large room called Barnside where the buses were seated in the restaurant. The next thing we knew, those Norwegian Elvises were singing into that live mic and performing a bizarre, spontaneous free tribute concert!
I was blessed while working at The Old Country Store to have all of my employers to be wonderful Christ followers. Clark Shaw, son of Brooks Shaw, was such a servant leader to all of us. In addition, my immediate boss, Lawrence Taylor, attended church with my grandparents and was a Jackson Christian parent. He helped me with my supervisor to get my work schedule to fit around my school and church schedule.
While working at The Old Country Store, I held three different jobs: gift shop worker, ice cream parlor worker, and waitress. I found joy and frustration in all three jobs. However, I knew that I was supposed to approach each work day as if I were working for God. So when I came to work, I made every effort to do my best, even if it was just a part-time job. The interesting thing is that I never looked at this job as "just" a part-time job. It was my job, and I was called to do my best in everything I did.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
My first position was in the gift shop working the register and restocking shelves. However, I worked primarily at the candy counter, which was placed right in front of the door. My job was to welcome each and every costumer with a friendly greeting and a genuine smile. I worked behind an antique candy counter/apothecary counter that held all kinds of candies including Jelly Bellies, double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts, smooth and melty mints, and other goodies that I could weigh out by the pound for customers. In addition, I gave out samples of our homemade fudge and sold that by the weight.
I realize that for many people this would have been their nightmare position, but for me and my out-going personality, I took this as a personal mission. Mr. Taylor had expressed to me that I had the responsibility of the first impression that each of our guests made. I chose to practice "good old Southern hospitality" to each and every guest to the best of my ability. So with my best smile and my most Southern accent, I would say, "Hey, ya'll! Welcome to The Old Country Store. Would you like a sample of our homemade fudge?"
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:9-10
I have truly always looked at life as a grand adventure, and I am aware that this looks like a big religious brag. I canNOT take credit for this outlook. My parents taught me to approach life this way. So each shift when I clocked into work, I wondered what crazy new chapter would be added to my work adventures. While my coworkers and I completed our tasks each shift, we also found time to laugh.
It didn't hurt that Mr. Taylor told me I should sample each and every sugary treat in the candy counter. He went on to say that I could pretty much eat all the candy and fudge I wanted because I needed to be able to tell customers what it tasted like. I was very aware that he thought I would make myself sick and not want it anymore, but he waaaay underestimated my sweet tooth! So out of the goodness of my heart, I chose to stop eating a ¼ pound of fudge for dinner after a week or so. That is just the kind of person I am.
Over the three years that I worked in the gift shop, I learned what it meant to work. I was 16-19 years old while working there. During those years, I was a high school student and then a college student working hard to excel academically, as well as spending many hours involved in extracurricular activities. Yet I knew that I had made a commitment to show up to work.
All of the employees were a team, helping each other finish tasks at closing time. Sometimes we would take turns dumping quarters in the ice cream parlor's antique Wurlitzer juke box to pass the time as we counted down our registers. A little bit of Elvis' "Jail House Rock" could put a little pep in my step as I swept down my area.
This is important to note: I was truly happy at work because I chose to be joyful at work. I have learned that I am joyful when I am serving others. When making those customers feel welcome as they walked through the doors, I knew I was serving both my boss and them.
The "King" sang about wanting to be loved in his song, "Love Me Tender;" yet the King of Kings tells us in His Word to love others without concern for how others love us.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
I pray that everyone may be able to tell that I am a disciple of King Jesus by my unconditional love for others.