Points to Ponder: They Who Hold the Spatula Can Change the World

Points to Ponder
They Who Hold the Spatula Can Change the World

I worked as assistant manager of a homemade ice cream shop at Baltimore's Harborplace, while studying for my business degree at Towson State University. My concentration was management, but even beyond that, it was leadership. I have learned that there is a difference between being a manager and being a leader.
The shop crew consisted mostly of high school and college students. Because it was a family-owned operation, we often employed the owners' kids or their friends' kids.
One boy (about age 15) was our least competent and often not very helpful employee. Nice guy, but he just was not a performer. The owners and upper management decided to fire him; but then on my shift, I had to inform him that it was his last day. Understandably, he was mad, hurt, betrayed and demoralized.
So I challenged him: he had two options for how he would use that day. Stomp out of there justifiably mad, or do his best, blow-out sales, and leave with his head held high and management wondering why they let him go.
Out of six sales people that day (and he always ranked #6), he walked out as #2. If nothing else, perhaps that young man remembered later in his life how he had triumphed; a reminder of what he could do if he applied himself. It was one of the worst days of his short life. What could he do? As manager, my job was to cut him and get back to running the store. But as the leader in that shop, I chose to use my authority to create an environment in which this young man could see the options available to him; that regardless of the circumstances beyond his control (he was fired), he could choose the harder right: to not react to what was before him, but to make a decisive response, to turn a sad ending into the launch of a new beginning.
To me, food service managers could change the world. These people occupy positions of incredible influence yet often aren't aware of their own potential. They may even view their occupation as being insignificant, or as a "dead end" job. Yet, one of the great sources of real cultural leadership and change is food service. There are others, but in particular, the restaurant business is where a lot of young people begin their career path. Restaurant managers have before them, in the course of just a few years, countless numbers of young men and women just beginning to punch a clock, do a job, and work as part of a business team. The values of having a work ethic, punctuality, conscientiousness, balancing one's talents with the abilities of others in pursuing a common goal, etc, etc, are things a restaurant manager can teach.
An astute manager who would focus on leadership development as well as the bottom line would find healthy growth in both. If you work on building up the person, the team thrives as a result.
When we study Paul's description of the Body of Christ, the church, a lot of emphasis is placed on the spiritual gifts (wisdom, knowledge, faith, tongues, etc). But he makes the profound and often overlooked point that the less prominent parts of the Body are the ones to whom God gives the greater honor.
"And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it" (I Corinthians 12:23-24)
As this country continues to lose its moral standards, and as we see our society resigning itself to a lower standard of getting by, how will change come? The least prominent are often the most influential.
Parents have a key role. Teachers and coaches also influence the character development of the next generation of cultural leaders. But after they have played their roles in these young lives in the early stages, the next leader to take up the mantel of authority in their lives is their first employer - typically a retail or restaurant manager.
I never thought I would become a pastor. Yet, so much of the wisdom, skills, and work practices I use now are a culmination of the things I learned from my earliest employers. These were the ones who helped identify my strengths and confront my weaknesses. They were the first to take a risk on me, to trust me with responsibility, to give me a key to the facility in which they'd invested their life savings. They were some of the first to choose to believe in me, to shepherd me.
Yeah, these "kids" may come to work to earn a paycheck and live for the weekend, or to get through school, or whatever. But while they are under the authority of their current boss, there is an opportunity to lead these impressionable souls in the direction their ultimate Boss has designed and called them to go.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).
You may think it matters who wins the Presidential election. But the solutions to society's problems are not found in a political platform. The real change happens in the hearts and souls of individuals. The real leaders who exercise the greatest power may be those who just served you lunch this week.
"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (I Peter 5:2-3).
Having a title does not make you a leader in someone's life; however, God may have placed someone in your life because it's your turn at this time to shepherd that one forward in their journey.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com