By Alicia Ruggieri
Alicia wrote this several years ago when working as a manager at McDonald's; I was really blessed and challenged by her words and wanted to share them . . .
Note: Several years ago, finishing up my full-ride academic scholarship education, I would never (I repeat, never) have thought I would “lower” myself to working at a fast-food joint. Yet, life has its unique twists, doesn’t it? And working in fast-food has given a not-to-be-missed vantage point from which I could see my own foibles and spiritual missteps. For some odd reason, the little world of McDonalds acts to concentrate human nature, letting us see its best and worst. I’ve listed below some of the most interesting things McDonalds has taught me. I hope you enjoy them and can learn from them as well.
1. You Never Know Who Your Cashier Is. This is best illustrated by a situation involving my sister Bekki, when she was cashiering at McDonalds. A familiar-looking, middle-aged, nicely-dressed man came in for lunch with his children and his conservatively-dressed wife. Obviously frustrated, he gave his order with that tang of polite condescension that can easily be excused as articulation. He kindly snapped at his wife, tartly rebuked his children, and was as snobbish as he could be without incurring guilt. At the conclusion of his order, Bekki realized why he looked so familiar. “Aren’t you the choir director at ___________ Church?” she asked. “My family went to their Christmas concert recently and loved it.” His face ashen, the man stuttered a thank-you and shuffled away. This poor choir director had no idea he would be a lesson in consistency, for we are really who we are when no one (who matters) is watching.
2. Jesus Doesn’t Care If You Flip Burgers or Are a CEO (but other Christians Do). I take the full responsibility for the foolish pride that caused me over and over to be ashamed of working for McDonalds rather than doing more “respectable” work. However, most of my embarrassment rose from having to tell fellow Christians where I worked because doing this usually invoked either well-concealed derision or blushing pity, the same attitude I always used to take before my fast-food career began. With a Savior who came from low-class peasants, who did manual labor until his thirties, and who chose uneducated disciples, I wonder why we Christians covertly scorn blue-collar (or even greasy-collar) work? My friends, this should not be. As Eric Liddel’s father told him, “God doesn’t care if you peel potatoes [for a living] if you peel them to perfection.” Whatever our hand finds to do, if it provides for our families and doesn’t dishonor God, we should do it with all our might and encourage others to do the same. (By the way, McDonalds doesn’t flip their meat, just in case you’re wondering.)
3. People Working in the Drive-Through Really Do Have Souls (even if they act like monkeys or machines). I needed to be reminded of this not in a drive-through but in a sit-down restaurant a number of years ago when I treated the overburdened waitress with snobbish disdain. However, because the interaction is so quickly accomplished, few customers in a drive-through realize how utterly rude they are to the people who are serving them. Let us engage in some old-fashioned courtesy. A cell phone glued to one ear, carrying on an additional conversation (Can it be called that?) with wailing children in the backseat, throwing money toward the drive-through window somehow hoping that it will land in the cashier’s hand, and keeping your window wipers on so that the waves of water splash the worker as they open the window… All unnecessary for common unbelievers. But what about Christians? Why do we heedlessly engage in the same behaviors? I think it’s partially because we are thinking of the next thing we’ll do, rather than concerning ourselves with what God has us doing right now. We blame the mechanical (usually unbelieving) worker for not interacting. Really, though, if we can’t demonstrate common courtesy (and have the Spirit of God elevate it to uncommon courtesy!) for ten seconds in a drive-through, how will we ever persevere in it throughout life?
4. Education Doesn’t Equal Intelligence (and intelligence doesn’t equal godliness). From observing people, I’ve found that they assume that you are what you do from 9-5. This was reinforced during a class in which my professor asked, “Do you ever notice that when you’re introduced to someone, the first question asked after, ‘Where do you live?’ is, ‘What do you do?’ It’s as if the only important thing to know is where that person fits into the social and economic scales.” I think human nature causes you and I to think this, inflamed by the modern idea that education equals salvation in every sense. Overall, we have a (completely foundationless) notion that if you’re educated, you’re intelligent (and if you’re not educated, you’re not intelligent). And in the Church, we’ve permitted another strange idea to creep in, a twist on the worldwide conception – that if we could just make people understand (i.e. educate them) enough, they would become Christians. And if we could just give enough knowledge to Christians, they would become godly. My friends, neither of these ideas is true. Though, obviously, being educated doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent, and being educated doesn’t mean you’re not godly, there isn’t much (if any) correlation among intelligence, education, and godliness. While at McDonalds, I’ve met very intelligent, very uneducated McDonalds employees who cured me of my delusion that education equals intelligence and that intelligence will (eventually) lead to godliness. A highschool dropout, “Jeff” has read the dictionary from cover to cover and regularly peppers his conversation with highly creative, spur-of-the-moment raps. Another “undereducated” man, “Charlie” can do three-digit addition and subtraction in his head within seconds. Neither Jeff nor Charlie are Christians (They may be someday!), but that state is certainly not due to lack of intelligence.
5. The World Vision Catalog Pictures Happen in the Next Town Over (and not just in the Third World). And they’re not funny. If McDonalds has done anything, it has caused me to realize that we Christians usually live in a bubble. When we say we have “trials,” they are often only scratches on the surface of our bubble, not a rock that shatters it. We live in a dreadfully hurting and dying world. Here is a list of people I have been privileged to work with over the past four years: “Daria,” a former prostitute trying to climb out of that darkness; “Ed,” stuck in a dizzying array of family issues (such that we would never think of) that he has to deal with; “Sam,” “Matt,” and “J.J.,” all bound in heavy drug addictions and dealing; and “Tiffany,” who decided to live with her deeply abusive boyfriend because her grandmother’s apartment is infested with cockroaches and she is afraid that the roaches will climb down her baby’s ears. Or how about “Candy,” who wears a bald spot where her boyfriend pulled out her cornrow braid, scalp and all? In the light of this suffering, how will we live? What will be important to us, when there is so much hurting around us? How will we treat others? As cogs in a wheel or as those for whom Christ died?
6. Our Witness for Christ is Built (or Destroyed) in the Hum-Drum Moments. When I first began working for McDonalds, I mentioned to a fellow Christian that working there gave me opportunities to share the Good News. The well-meaning Christian gave me a puzzled smile and asked, “Really? You get a chance to talk about the Gospel between flipping burgers?” In a word, yes. As Christians, we “talk” through our actions far more than through our words. I have gotten to talk to more people about Jesus in McDonalds than I ever did in high school or college. And I have found a greater receptivity to the Gospel as well, for did He not come to preach the Good News to the poor, to set the prisoner free, and more? At McDonalds, I can tell people about my Lord through how I talk to rude customers, how I handle disrespect and disobedience to my requests from subordinates, how hard I work, how honest or dishonest I am, how consistent I am with what I say, etc. This is true in all of life, from the home to the workplace to the shopping mall: Our talk is only as good as how we behave.
We could all learn from these ideas if we applied them to the many different areas of our lives. We will have a little more (truly) Christian compassion and demand a few less of our (perceived) rights. We will think less of ourselves and our time (When did we begin to believe that any time really belongs to us, anyway?) and more of Christ and what He demands of us. For our walk with our Father really comes down to that, doesn’t it? To love the Lord our God with the utmost of our emotions, will, and mind, and to love our neighbor with the same dedication, regard, and thoughtfulness with which we love ourselves.
Challenging myself with you,
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