Thursday, 30 June 2011

There Goes the Neighbourhood

When my buddy Rick (Moose) Moore's family  moved to Toronto when we were teens I was distraught at the thought of him leaving our little town, afraid he'd be swallowed up in the big city.  On one of his visits back to Belleville he reassured me.  "Jeremy," he said, "in Belleville we live in our neighbourhoods.  In Toronto we live in neighbourhoods, too.  There's just a whole lot more of them."  With those words of wisdom my fears were at rest.

I wish Moose was here to talk to Mayor Eddie and council.  (Why does our council entertain delegations if they have no intention of listening, or perhaps even changing their votes because of what they've heard?)

As when they opened the WFCU Arena and closed several neighbourhood ice rinks, by opening the aquatic centre they intend to close down neighbourhood pools and the main library in this "big box" approach to city services.  I think that's a bad idea.

~ conflict of interest alert - all 3 of my kids have put themselves, or are putting themselves through University on lifeguard wages ~ all 3 of my kids have given everything they have (including cash from their own pockets) to make a kid's summer a great one at the neighbourhood pool ~

We live in our neighbourhoods.  My kids spent summers walking over to an outdoor pool and spending afternoons with their friends.  If we lived in the vicinity of one of the soon to be closed pools, the summer magic and the lessons of community learned at an early age would have been lost to them, as it will be to kids today.

Pools, rinks, libraries are NOT cost items on the city budget, at least not in the sense of a profit/loss calculation.  They are the services provided with the tax dollars pooled for the benefit of all.  Yet lately we hear about pools losing money, or libraries costing money.  They're supposed to.  So is snow removal.

When we land the big swimming events, who's going to be temporarily evicted?  Swim classes, recreational swimmers, library users who can't find a parking spot, all of these citizens will have to cool their jets while the big pool and all the little ones in the complex are being used for some mega-event or another.

I'm in favour of a new sports-plex type installation downtown, seriously really in favour.  It's good for business, it's good for tourism, it's good for Windsor.  I'm not sure it has to be so big, and I'm just not in favour of shutting down the lifeblood of our neighbourhoods for this Council's legacy project.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Heat and Serve is bad Enough in a Restaurant

There are a lot of really poor restaurants out there, some of them chains and some of them independents.  They take a prepared product straight from the freezer to the deep fryer or oven, slap some canned sauce on it, and serve it to you as if you couldn't buy the exact same crap at the supermarket and throw it in your own oven at home.  Heat and serve.

We can criticize the common eatery for outsourcing, thawing, deep-frying and broiling in a bid to fill the gullets of the masses for a measly profit, but here are some areas in our own lives in which we should avoid it.

Social Media - we heat and serve opinion when we take what others have written and serve it up thoughtlessly.  It's bad when some tweet other's blog posts minutes after the original is posted EVERY time, it's worse when Facebookers attempt to shame each other into turning their status into a PSA (Public Service Announcement).  Create your own damned cause!  Drop me as a friend if you can't handle that I refuse to copy and paste your status for an hour.  We'll both get over it.

Our Vocations / Careers - if you're going to open a restaurant dammit, do it because you love to serve wonderful food to really nice people.  The same goes for our careers, figuratively speaking.  If it's truly a career, and not a 40 year job, do it because you love to do it.  Don't heat and serve someone else's watered down dreams just for a crummy paycheque.  Like eating in a mediocre roadhouse, sometimes you have to until you can do better.  Just don't fool yourself that it's fine dining, that it's nutritious, or that you won't end up with a fat ass.

Love and Friendship - there's another human being involved.  She or he deserves better than warmed over platitudes and self-serving afterthoughts.  He or she deserves better than a "can I take your order" attitude, or "cheque please!" response the first time the going gets tough.  Take the time to work up an appetite, to savour the moment, to glory in a shared meal and to dream about it long afterwards.

Our Faith, or Lack Thereof:  Our Relationship with God - specifically with Christ.  Embrace him or reject him - your choice, but do it whole heartedly and live with the consequences.  Don't heat and serve tasteless blather and call it prayer, don't slop out banalities about inner spirituality or outer atheism unless you've taken the time to personally prepare the dish.  After all, you'll be eating it for eternity.


Monday, 27 June 2011

The Three Coolest Things ever said to me by a Hospitality Professional

We can mandate service standards all to hell, but in the end it comes down to the front line people having the autonomy to speak from the heart in an excellence oriented culture.  A waiter in Baltimore last week reminded me of that, and of two other occasions where the hospitality professional knew just exactly what to say.

"Hi, I'm John!"  That's how John at the Baltimore Hilton greeted us.  "Good morning Miss Williams," (reading my breakfast partner's convention name badge).  He turned to me and extended his hand, "Good morning sir, I'm John."  I wasn't wearing my badge.  I shook his hand and said "Pleased to meet you John, I'm Jeremy." John then gave an outstanding overview of the breakfast menu, apologized that we had to wait for a table (5 minutes at most) and for the rest of the meal he addressed us by name.  "More coffee, Jeremy?"  Cool.  In his greeting he had advised that if we wanted pancakes or waffles as part of our buffet, he'd arrange to have them made for us fresh.  We didn't ask, but he showed up unexpectedly mid-way through the meal with a waffle for us to share.  "I thought you might enjoy this!"  Very cool.

"It's my problem, not yours."  The second coolest thing ever said to me was by a hotel Assistant Manager a lot of years ago.  My former boss was throwing one of her trademark tantrums about the hotel room and something about a hair dryer and how she'd already been moved once, and I just couldn't take the whining anymore, having put up with it for several trips already that summer.  Nothing was ever good enough.  I went to the manager on duty and asked them (begged them) to apply my frequent traveler upgrade for my boss' stay but unfortunately the offer was non-transferable.  I pleaded with them to concede just this once and put her in a suite, and put me out of my misery.  "You don't understand," I said.  "She's making my life hell!"  The Assistant Manager smiled and said, "If your boss is unhappy in my hotel, it's not your problem, it's mine.  Leave it with me."  Very cool.

"Congratulations!", the coolest words ever spoken.  A lot of years ago, on our honeymoon in New York City, we went to dinner at Sardi's.  You know the place - caricatures of Stars on the walls, it's been in a number of movies.  We couldn't afford it but we went anyway.  The only thing in our price range was the theatre menu.  Because the shows were about to begin and we had arrived late and ordered from the theatre menu, the server assumed we were in a rush and ramped up the service.  When we realized what was happening we told him the situation - we weren't going to a Play, and this was our honeymoon.  The place cleared out quickly as the well-to-do and the well-known headed off to Broadway, leaving only my bride and I almost alone in the famous dining room.  That's when Mr. Sardi stopped by.  "I hear you're newly married," he said, extending his hand.  "Congratulations!"

As a young restaurant manager just out of Chef's school at the start of my career it was an unforgettable moment and not just because it was Mr. Sardi.  It was almost the last time a manager or owner has ever dropped by our table.  I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm saying it doesn't happen often.  Mr. Sardi made welcome the penniless kid and his wife enjoying what, to this day, is still one of the best meals we've ever experienced.

This is a great career if you're humbly inclined to the service of others.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Our Father. No really, Our FATHER, our Daddy, Abba, our Papa...

Those two words, spoken by Jesus, have changed the world.  "Our Father..."

Before he gave his disciples freedom to speak directly to God, they prayed quite differently.  They followed strict rituals, they brought their petitions to the priest, and he prayed on their behalf.  He kept his eyes averted, and never directly addressed God by name.  The Jewish people didn't even have a name for God, they gave Him the unpronounceable YHWH.  We, of course, added a few vowels and use the word "Yahweh" as one of the names we call our Father.

With these two words, "our Father", we could now pray directly to God, and on behalf of others.

It has been suggested that how we relate to our own fathers conditions us in the manner in which we relate to God.  For some He is authoritarian and strict, for others a friendly daddy.

The first few sentences of the Lord's Prayer are addressed vertically, directly to God.  We recognize His place in our lives.  We pay tribute, and then we move on to petitions.

The petitions are a horizontal expression of our oneness as a people.  Give us this day OUR daily bread, forgive us OUR trespasses, and so on.   This prayer is meant to be prayed daily, if not for ourselves, for others.  Our DAILY bread, not "enough bread until I get around to praying again," but our daily bread.

The Holy Spirit, breathed into the world by God when He sent the Word, His Son, in the same way that when we speak our words they are sent out with our own breath.  The Holy Spirit gives us the courage and faith to pray the Lord's Prayer daily.  The Lord's Prayer is perhaps the most profound statement of our belief in the Triune God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and we say it daily separately and together.

The Lord's Prayer is a spoken expression of the sign of our faith, the sign of the cross.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Our Father, Yours and Mine

Those two words, spoken by Jesus, have changed the world.  "Our Father..."

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, the word "our" must have rocked their world, to use the popular vernacular.

1.  Before this, only the priest prayed on behalf of the people.  With the introduction of this simple phrase, "our Father", Jesus empowered each of us to pray on behalf of another.  And so, in effect, we are all priests. In fact we are a priestly people, we are all prophets, and we share in the kingdom.

2.  If he's"our" Father, then that makes us children of God. All of us.  That's pretty cool.  But wait!  There's more...

3.  That Jesus said it makes him our brother.  Yes, I know we've heard that said, but has it really sunk in?  He's a sibling - we can talk to him just that plainly.  He's one of the family.

4.  And here's the relationship that changes everything, or has the potential to change our lives.  If we're all children of God, then we are brothers and sisters.  All of us.
     You know how sometimes kids accuse their parents of playing favourites?  Of course they don't, they love their children individually and equally, and especially so does God.  (Have you ever noticed?  When we think our parents play favourites, it's never we who are the favourite, but when we think God has favourites, we assume it's us, our way of life, our country...)
     You know that madman that wants to wipe Israel off the map?  God loves him as much as he loves me.  You know those madmen that flew the planes into the buildings, or those who want us dead, or those who kill Christians simply for following Christ?  God loves them as much as he loves me; as much as he loves you.  That family who lives next to us that dumps their garbage on my lawn every day?  God loves them even though they're driving us crazy.

Picture borrowed from Calvary Chapel Shreveport
And just so should we.

When we pray the Lord's Prayer, it's not a personal prayer at all.  It's a prayer for and on behalf of everyone, even those who don't believe.

More to come...

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Real Undercover Boss

One of my favourite TV shows is "Undercover Boss".  Each week a different company is featured, with a CEO coming down from on high, from the corner office, the Executive suite, the Ivory Tower - by whatever name you call it, he comes down to associate with the common folk in the sewers, roadways, fields and warehouses of their business.  And yes, more often than not, the boss is a he but there is hope for the future.

It seems the best way these men can disguise themselves to prevent from being recognized, and to best fit in with their employees, is to stop shaving and bathing and to move into a flea-bitten motel.  I guess if that's the standard they've set in the workplace...when in Rome and all that.

The comparisons to our own Undercover Boss are not that big a jump, although it's tough to pretend that Jesus was exactly undercover.  He gave ample warning that he was coming.  It is said that Jesus is mentioned in every book of the Bible.  Still he wasn't recognized, perhaps because he came as the humble king, born into poverty.

And if today we fail to recognize him, it's our own fault.  He warned us - whenever we fail to recognize the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the lonely among us, we have failed to recognize him in our midst.  And, like at the end of every Undercover Boss episode when the employees are faced with the evidence of their own words and behaviour, we too will have our own personal "come to Jesus" moment.

But here's the good news.  He didn't come to judge, just to show us the way.

And in doing so, he taught us to pray using the two most profound words ever uttered by a human being, (and make no mistake, he was fully human as well as fully divine).

What are the two words that have changed the world, and have the potential to change our lives?

"Our Father..."

More to come...

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Real Cost of Watering my Lawn

Early this spring I purchased a rain barrel and hose attachment for about $100.00. This is the real cost of infrastructure to deliver water to my humble garden, (I don't water the grass) and no matter how much I use or don’t use that cost remains the same.

Some people on the municipal system think they should be charged for usage, and that there shouldn't be an infrastructure component on the monthly water bill.  OK, let's put a meter on my spigot and charge me for the water I drain out of my barrel every time I water the flowers.  I think we’ll discover that the water itself is actually the least expensive consideration.

I have a friend who was complaining that his municipality has implemented a watering ban and that even if he does buy a rain barrel, it won't be enough to keep his lawn green.  He'd need several.  Yes!  By George, I think he's got it!

But let's be real.  Whatever I'm saving in not watering the lawn and garden from a hose, I'm blowing in thawing out food for the barbecue under cold running water because I just can't be bothered to think two days ahead.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Lessons in Management, Learned in the Garden

I'm no gardener.  I'm a guy with a yard and a wife who likes it to look nice.  I'm also currently a manager of a small sales team of professionals, but in my career I've led teams of 100+.

If you remember "The Karate Kid", Mr. Miyagi tended to his Bonsai tree while he taught Daniel-san the lessons of karate, and of life.  I have often thought it was a powerful metaphor that largely went unnoticed in the plot.

My mind wanders when I work in the yard, and I'm of the mind that when your mind wanders to the same subject constantly, it's probably best to let it.  Maybe a freedom trek of the imagination will help solve a problem.  Lately my mind finds itself pondering the challenges of being the best possible manager to the benefit of my organization, and for the others I serve - my team.

Here are some lessons from my humble backyard:

Plants need water and sunshine, but too much or too little will kill them.  The same is true of the people who report to you.  They need constant attention, some less than others, and it's up to the gardener to know his garden, and the needs of each individual plant, and to give them just the right amount of attention that each requires.  You learn that by getting into the garden and getting your hands dirty.

Weeds don't belong.  Some weeds masquerade as attractive or complimentary plants.  Right now I have a problem with some sort of clover growing slowly over the yard.  It's tempting to keep it.  It doesn't need any attention, and it's always a green carpet no matter how dry the rest of the yard gets, but it doesn't belong.  I didn't plant it, and it wasn't part of the plan.  So I pull it out every time I'm out there tending the yard.

The weeds in our organization can be people with bad attitudes, and yes, their attitude IS our business.  Weeds in the organization can be bad practices that creep in over time.  A business that closes a few minutes early becomes a business more focused on closing early than serving every client up to and well past the last minute.  An office team can walk out the door promptly every day at 5:00, but that weed-like behaviour creeps into other practices, like not answering late afternoon emails or phone calls, and putting off late afternoon requests for proposals until tomorrow morning (while the competition stays late and gets their proposal in front of the customer's eyes first).

The whole yard needs attention.  From time to time we have to focus on the individual components, but only in context of the whole.  Too much attention on one part of the garden creates an imbalance and the other parts suffer.  The same is true of our team.  Individuals get the attention they need, when they need it, but ignoring the rest of the team will lead to bigger problems brought on by imbalance.

Prune, prune, prune.  You're not doing the bush any favours by letting it grow wild.  It isn't cruel to the bush to prune it back, it's actually helpful to it's growth.  So why are some managers afraid to reel in their subordinates?  Prune too much or at the wrong time and you'll kill the plant, prune too little and it will die unhealthy and unkempt.  We owe it to our reports' careers to prune and let grow, alternately and at the right times.

Sometimes you just have to hire a landscaper.  You're not expected to know everything, but it's your job to maintain the garden after he's gone.  Management landscapers come as consultants, in your HR department, and in recruiting firms, but the role they play doesn't abdicate the manager of her responsibility after they're gone.  Hire a good one, share your vision of the end goal, and be prepared to speak up when he's headed in the wrong direction.  You are the manager - it's your garden.

Most of all, enjoy your work!  You don't pull out the shears or the lawn-mower every time you go out into the yard.  Sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labours.  The same is true of your team - sometimes you just have to kick back and enjoy their company.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Road Test - the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe

Once upon a time our family owned a Saturn Vue.  It was a sport-cute, and my wife was the main driver.  Apart from a lot of road noise, a nagging gearshift issue that the mechanics couldn't recognize (but we did), and how very badly it handled in the snow, we kind of liked it.  But we've actively avoided all Sport-Utes since we got that out of our system and went back to driving a sedan.

I've boycotted all Hyundai products out of protest because of the Pony.  I won't even rent them.  Back in the eighties we had just enough means to buy one of only three cars in our meager price range - a Pony, a Pontiac Sunbird, or the Renault Alliance.  Thankfully we chose the Renault, because the Pony had a useful life of exactly three years, and the Sunbird was a blue smoke belching excuse for a small car.  I had a friend who owned a Hyundai Pony and got not one hour more than 1080 days out of it.  Last payment and a dead car (back in the day when you could afford to buy a car over three years).

So when the rental guys try to offer me a Hyundai, I always decline, but this week I caved and took the Santa Fe.  What a great vehicle!  It's got me rethinking my aversion to Sport-Utilities, and I have discovered a new respect for Hyundai.  Here's what I thought:

Great:  The design.  This is a good sized vehicle that doesn't feel cumbersome.  It's easy to handle, has plenty of zip even with the air conditioning on full blast, it's quiet on the highway and comfortable to drive. It feels like a whole lot more car than what you probably pay for it.  Quality - it just feels like quality.  Somebody who cares designed and built this vehicle.

Good:  Fuel economy is surprisingly good for a big Sport Ute.  It's larger than a number of it's competitors, and even in mostly city driving I was surprised at how little fuel it used.   Still, if I didn't have to commute in this vehicle, I would probably prefer something a little smaller.  But for soccer moms and hockey dads, the flexibility and size doesn't have to come with an excessive trade-off in operating costs.

Room for Growth?  It feels like they intentionally built blind spots into the design.  Backing up with the high back seats and headrests combined with tinted windows was uncomfortable in a parking garage.  I always felt like I was guessing.  I wouldn't even attempt to back up out of the family driveway without knowing where every little kid in the neighbourhood was for fear of running over someone I couldn't see. Maybe a back-up camera is needed?  So an excellent family oriented design on the inside of the vehicle and wonderful performance under the hood fails a little, in my opinion, in the lack of consideration of all that's happening outside and around the vehicle.

Would I Buy One?  Frankly, I'd like to test drive it in the snow first.  But if it was as great as it looks like it might be, and if we were back in the days of three young active kids, and if we could afford more than we could back then, we most definitely would have put this vehicle on the list.

Even today, maybe a hybrid Santa Fe could be on the list of future vehicles.

Here's my One Minute Review of the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe

Friday, 10 June 2011

Sociologist: Every 5 Minutes a Christian Is Martyred

A sociologist representing a European security organization says that the number of Christians killed each year for their faith is so high that it calculates to one martyr's life being taken every five minutes.

"If these numbers are not cried out to the world, if this slaughter is not stopped, if it is not acknowledged that the persecution of Christians is the first worldwide emergency in the matter of viodislence and religious crimination, the dialogue between religions will only produce beautiful conferences but no concrete results,"

Read more  ZENIT - Sociologist: Every 5 Minutes a Christian Is Martyred

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Of Spoons and Muggs

When I was first in sales selling dishwashers and dishwashing chemicals to restaurants in Toronto's downtown core, I was given some great advice by my boss in the now defunct chemical company I worked for.   It amounted to this:  "Take care of your best clients, first."

I had inadvertently neglected a call from a late-70s style big food big restaurant concept in it's final days.  No one knew it at the time, but waiters with attitude were about to become yesterday's news in the big restaurant segment.  Seems the hoi-polloi would grow weary of the hype and hip and faux-happiness that came with deepfried cheesesticks and boil-in-the-bag marinara sauce.  Big concept joints in the tourist district would soon stack their last patio chair, spear their last pickle and place it in their last Bloody Caesar, hand out their last oversized menu, and embroider their last server apron.  

Freezer to fryer, though not dead, was on the decline.

But that was still a few years away, and this joint was one of our best accounts.  I hadn't responded immediately because I was in a Diner on Queen Street, under the dishwasher trying to figure out why the damned thing wouldn't turn on.  Lunch dishes were stacking up.

The big restaurant GM was livid by the time I responded, although I had gotten there as soon as I could.  He had waited several hours for me to come and see why the coffee mugs just weren't as clean as they could be, while I had chosen not to leave the small diner without a functioning dishmachine.

As the Boss said in our post-mortem - "We can't afford to lose this client!   The next time they call for any reason, I don't care what you're doing, drop it.  It takes 20 "spoons" (greasy spoons - a nickname for a small restaurant)..."it takes 20 spoons to replace one big account like this one."

True enough.  But the big guys are mostly gone, and Chef Susur Lee from Peter Pan on Queen Street has gone on to open a few "spoons" since.  Maybe not twenty, but a few.

The lesson - the boss is always right, except when hindsight is on your side.
Lesson two - he was right, we do need to take care of our most important clients.  Sometimes they're just not our biggest.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Of Parliament, Pages and the Privilege to Serve

My son, at the age of 13, was a Page at Queen's Park.

He studied hard to get that spot.  Maps of the chambers on the dining room table, he (and his parents) could name every Member by riding and by seat location by the time it he was ready to take the test.  Once a Page is accepted it is a rigorous course to teach these kids from all over Ontario the rules of Parliament.

As Pages, they cannot show any sign of partisanship.  That's why they wear black and white, so that no Party colour is evident in their dress.  They treat every member equally, and respond when called, performing essential duties of Parliament.  Had a Federal election been called while my son was serving, our family would not have been permitted to plant a lawn sign.  That's how non-partisan Pages MUST be, it even extends to their homes.

A university student Page in Ottawa recently broke the code of non-partisanship and openly protested the Prime Minister on the floor of the Senate.  Shame.  Shame.  Some say they've seen worse behaviour on the floor, and current decorum is at it's lowest in history.  If that were true there'd be no need for the Government benches and Opposition benches to be separated by a distance of exactly two sword lengths; there is a long history of raucous behaviour in the process of making laws.  Let us hope there is a short history of foolish behaviour by officers of the House.

Some praise her, but I can't.  It wasn't courageous, it was a heinous breach of protocol.  Following the argument that her actions are to be applauded, I suppose we should be happy every time Parliament grinds to a halt because some other Page or another non-elected person with access to the chamber decides to get naked and streak, or to egg the PM, play a guitar, hold a sign, wear a rainbow-coloured headband or in some other way make a personal statement of protest.

The young lady's behaviour brought shame to all Pages.  It threatens democracy.  The House of Commons must be the one place where democracy is allowed to run it's course, a course any Canadian will cheer or decry, depending on one's loyalties, depending on exactly what moment in history is unfolding.

Read about this recent silliness here:  and a commentary here

Friday, 3 June 2011

Boomers, Billionaires and Baristas

Many conferences I have attended have sessions addressing the cross-generational divide in the workplace today.  Witty and expert presenters codify us by age groups with names like Boomers and X or Y, they tease us for our common foibles, and offer suggestions on how to address each others' needs.   In truth, it's the older ones who are expected to accommodate the younger ones while they put up with us.  The young 'uns don't pay us no never mind, and never have.

I admit I have experienced my share of frustration with the twenty to thirty-somethings, but they have some qualities I greatly admire, too.

Billionaires and Baristas:  Seems the mid-twenties crowd are either uber-smart millionaires working towards their first billion, or they are baristas at Starbucks.  Here's the cool thing - they mutually co-exist.  Neither looks down on or up to the other, neither would change places, each is happy in their own self-centred world.

The Winner, by a Tie:  They don't own ties.  They don't tuck in their shirts.  They have a one-day growth of facial hair, every day (how is that even possible?) and they look good.  Well, not all of them.  A lot of them are overweight and out of shape but they still try and pull off this sloppy casual look.  But to the ones who can pull it off, congratulations.  We were never that cool.  I look forward to one of you millionaires giving the keynote address at my next conference looking like you just rolled out of bed as I sit there all suited up out of respect for your coolness.

The Winner by a Vote:  Life is just one big reality show to them, and losers get voted off by indifference and apathy and downright freestyle editorial comment on the social networks.

Everyone is a Self-Editing Comedian:  and some of the stuff they say in 140 characters is insightful and pretty damned funny.

They're Smart: but not wise, which is a shame.  Just once I'd like to hear them give a well-considered opinion, not just a re-#hash of someone else's tweet.  I do like the way they drag their fingers across the screen of their I-Pads in dazzling speed as they search for evidence on the net that what I've just said is wrong.  Very cool.

They all Want to Earn RIGHT NOW the Salary it Took me Thirty Years to Get:  And I'm OK with that, they can have it.  "Money can't buy me love..." (That's the Beatles.  Look it up, Google it, YouTube it.)

I try to be kind to every one of them.  They won't all be Baristas for life; they won't all be Billionaires (I know, I know...but someone had to say it.  Were you gonna tell 'em?)

One of them will be my boss when I'm working as a Greeter at Wal-Mart someday, they just don't know it yet.  I want them to remember me as that old guy who was pretty cool and  "down with it" in the 2010s.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Ego and Ministry, Me vs. my Better Self

I often joke that the last thing any clergyman wants to do is upset the choir.  I joke because it's just too dangerous to say something like that without a smile and a self-deprecating chuckle.

I know, my mom was in the choir.  She once left her Parish because she was highly insulted by something someone said about her singing, spent a year lending her talent at another Parish, and only returned to good old St. Thomas' when they begged her to return.

There are lots of ministries in the church.  There are lots of activities to the glory of God.

The danger of Ministry, the danger of volunteerism, is when one defines himself / herself by the work.  A person becomes the work and prefers to be known by the title, the raison d'etre becomes the raison d'autre.  The ego defines us.  We clutch tightly until it hurts, we get angry when people don't recognize our selflessness, we continue on grudgingly, we burn out.  As a good friend reminded me, nowhere in the Bible does it say "burned out to the glory of God!"

Here's a simple test to see if we've fallen into the trap.  What if your Pastor told you he wanted you to consider volunteering your talents to something other than what you're doing?  What if you were asked to stop singing in the choir and join the St. Vincent de Paul society instead, or more to the point, what if you always sing the Psalm and you were asked to let someone else sing "your" solo?  What if you were asked to step aside from heading up Sunday school to working in a support situation for another?

Sure, it would hurt at first.   That's natural, our egos take a bit of a bruising from time to time.   But when we're ready to quit the Parish or volunteer organization because of a perceived insult like these, maybe we're holding on just a little too tightly and for the wrong reasons.  That's a hard lesson to learn.

That's a great lesson if we can learn it.  God willing some day I will, too.