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Archive for the month “April, 2015”

Experienced in Flags and Puck Marks!

Every now and then I’ll be on my way downtown when I’ll look on top of one of the tallest bank buildings.  Sure enough there is the American flag blowing in the breeze.  A smile will very slowly come to my face as I remember.  You see I have a little history with that particular flag location.  My family knows the story too and they will also mention the flag when they see it.

It was years ago 1979 to be exact and I had just graduated from college.  I had been going through rejections in the interview process for business positions mostly because of my lack of experience.  I was living with my parents and decided that I needed to be doing something, so I swallowed my pride one day and applied at Kelly Services.  Kelly Services was a place that employers could go to if they needed temporary help.  You would work for Kelly but they would send you to different places that they contracted with.  Usually the jobs were one day in duration as the companies had something that needed to be done that they weren’t willing to make a position for.  Fortunately the employment lady at Kelly must have taken a liking to me because I started getting calls.  She wouldn’t call until the morning that I was supposed to report and she would tell me where to go, what to expect, and who to report to.

One morning I received her call.  This position was a little different than the several she had sent me to before.  They needed a janitor type person for two weeks.  I’m not sure what the companies situation was.  I assume that either their regular person had quit or they went on vacation or something.  Anyway she told me to report downtown to the First National Bank building, who to report to, and what floor they were on.  When I arrived the manager went through all of the duties I would be responsible for and when I should do them.  Lastly he took me up on the roof of the building.  It felt kind of odd to be up there but there were walls around the ledges so it wasn’t like we were going to get blown off by a gust of wind.  “Each day you will be responsible for putting the flag up”, he stated.  At that point he pulled the flag out of a box and showed me how it was done.

Each day I would go into that fancy bank building.  It had a revolving door and heavy glass doors.  After entering the building I would turn to the right where there was this fancy elevator.  I was greeted each morning by a doorman who observed people coming in.  Entering the elevator I was always in the company of people dressed in 3 piece business suits.  Some of them didn’t seem much older than me but they were always in groups and seemed to have a mission.  There were lawyer offices on different floors and I assumed that they were either lawyers or assistants to the lawyers.  Anyway in the midst of all of these well dressed people I had my casual jeans and shirt on.  They never asked what I did or why I wasn’t in business attire.  They all seemed to be in their own little world and their days mission seemed utmost on their minds.

I remember some of the janitor duties I performed (mostly picking up trash bags), but the thing I remember most was putting up that flag every morning.  At the time I never questioned why I had to put it up every day.  Why didn’t they just leave it up through the night?  I discovered from reading about the guidelines of the flag the answer.  The custom is to display the flag from sunrise to sunset only.  I don’t believe I took the flag down.  I’m pretty sure I left before sunset and someone else was responsible for that chore.  My flag job was one of those jobs that doesn’t get noticed until it isn’t done.  Much like the offensive lineman in football.  As long as they are doing their job we are concentrating on the Quarterback throwing his touchdowns.  However when the lineman makes a penalty all eyes are on him.  We are quick to blame but slow to give glory to these people.  They seem to be noticed only when they make a mistake.  I didn’t make a mistake as each day I had that flag flying high!


Brother Ingram was a man at the church I used to attend who had a similar position far from glory and adulation.  He did maintenance work inside the church and also mowed their expansive yard both back and front.  He revealed to me one time that it took him 4 hours to do the job and that was on a riding mower.  Brother Ingram was retired and did his duties as a labor of love for the church.  He wasn’t paid except maybe a tiny love gift at the end of the year.  If he were offered a weekly check he would not have accepted it.  He knew that it was a small church and that we were having a hard time paying it’s monthly bills.  He was offering his services as a gift so the church wouldn’t have to hire an expensive third party to do the job each week.  Brother Ingram always had the lawn in order.  Nobody really said anything about how the lawn looked.  It’s assumed that the lawn of a church will look good somehow or some way.  It never occurred to most that this man was giving his time each week to keep the church that he loved in order.  I don’t remember this ever happening but if Brother Ingram didn’t do his duty I’m sure it would have been noticed.  Otherwise nobody thought much about the church lawn as long as Brother Ingram was doing the job.

This church had an enormous amount of land (mostly in the back) that Brother Ingram mowed once a week as a labor of love!

This church had an enormous amount of land (mostly in the back) that Brother Ingram mowed once a week as a labor of love!

The most unusual job I ever performed was a one day job that Kelly Services sent me on before the flag raising job.  When she called I was told to wear warm clothing and boots.  I was to report to the Wings Stadium Ice Arena.  When I arrived there was another Kelly worker present also.  We were each given rags and a bottle of spray solution that looked like Windex.  “I want you to go around and clean all of those puck marks off of the wall”, we were told.  The marks on the arena walls were made from hockey pucks from a recent game.  I looked and there were literally hundreds or maybe thousands of black marks all over the white wall.  Some were more easily removed than others.  After spraying the solution on it took much elbow grease to remove even one mark.  This was a slow and tedious process.  As we worked away we carried on a conversation to avoid the tedious nature of the job.  I know that when we were done for the day the arena looked better.  I remember that even after all of the work we put in there were still marks that wouldn’t totally come off.  I never thought that I would spend an entire working day cleaning puck marks off of the arena walls.  The next day I was sent somewhere else and I was thankful!

Hockey Rink

Remembering these unusual jobs that I did years ago makes me realize that the behind the scenes jobs are important too.  Usually when you see a person or an organization that is successful you see the person who is the face of that effort.  Very rarely is one person responsible for success or failure.   It takes efforts from people in the forefront along with people in the background.  Too often we are quick to give credit and financial reward to someone in the public eye while never considering the contributors that do the little things that are needed but are not very glamorous.

For too many of us Christians self pride has become too much of our equation.  We are always striving for the perfect position and never finding it.  Too many times we strive for that position where we are the face of the whole campaign because we are taught that is how to succeed.  We’re not interested in the Kelly Services positions in the spiritual realm. In the end God looks at our hearts. It isn’t what I can accomplish it is what he can accomplish through me!  Instead of having the attitude of a ruler he teaches us to have the attitude of a servant.  When two of Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who was the greatest Jesus made this point. In Matthew chapter 20 verses 26-27 Jesus tells them “But among you it will be different.  Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”  You see when the rewards are given out after life’s journey we very well might be surprised that big rewards are given to people who are not known for worldly fame.  The goal scorers lavished with praise upon this earth might not be rewarded as much as the servants who cleaned up the puck marks!

Really Caring

To me it seems that the trouble with salespeople is that they are never around or they are always around.  If you have shopped for things at all you know exactly what I mean.  Either you are searching the whole store for someone who you can ask a question or you are attacked the moment you walk in the door.  The results to us the customers are two words that start alike, either frustrating or frightening.

Seller demonstrating paint roller to buyer Stock Photo - 17889948

When I attended high school I had a job in the local Sears store selling men’s clothing.  It was through a co-op program where I went to school in the mornings and worked in the afternoons or evenings.  My class teacher and my supervisor at work both trained us not to approach the customer the same way almost every salesperson we knew approached.  The standard line “Can I help you?” was not the line we were to use.  If someone for instance was looking at some shirts or one in particular we were to say something like “that’s a nice looking shirt!.”  A statement like that let’s the customer know that you are there and available to help them without the threat that you have to show them something they don’t want to see.  Approaching with a friendly statement usually doesn’t solicit a “no I’m just looking” response.  You see the problem with the “no I’m just looking response” is that it cuts off the conversation.  On the other hand this approach encourages conversation in a non threatening way.  The customer might say “yes it is a nice looking shirt but I was looking for blue.”  Or “Yes, I like this shirt…I wish it were my size!”  Usually in the standard approach the salesperson after asking if they can help them and getting the no answer will say “Well let me know if you see something.”  In other words if you find it on your own I’ll ring it up.  Is that really the job of the salesperson? If so why do we need them?  We can walk into a place, look around, pick something out, and scan it through the self scanning line.

The salesperson should be friendly and helpful, available, yet not pushy.  They should be able to relate to the customer as they are a customer too.  Relating experiences of their purchase of the same product is likely very helpful.  Trying to match the product to the customers needs without feeling like it is pushy or self motivated keeps the customer relaxed.  The salesperson should always keep the customers needs in mind.

Mark has a business in our town repairing cars.  Mark runs his business with fairness and integrity always putting the customer first.  I have gained trust in Mark over the years because he has given me advice that did not make his business a dime but was right for me.  I had an old car and Mark would tell me to keep an eye on some part that could cause problems later.  Instead of having me repair perfectly serviceable parts because they might be wearing a little his advice made sense.  I have heard Mark give advice on the phone that far exceeded his business interests.  Mark works a lot with college students and he frequently directs them where to go in the stores and what to look for.

Mark cares for his customers

Mark cares for his customers

We had an experience with my sons car where we took it for an oil change.  We had a coupon for another place which also included a complete inspection.  To be honest we were just interested in the oil change.  We realized that the car being old had minor problems.  The inspection was done before the oil change and 45 minutes later the verdict was in.  The list was long as there were seven or eight things wrong with the car and the cost was over $1,700.00.  I again repeated that we were only interested in the oil change.  The counter person was not happy with me and had me sign a waiver paper on the car denying repair which I did.  I can report that the car is still running strong two years later.  If it were Mark he would have possibly said “keep an eye on this or that and if it starts making a noise or any other symptoms bring it in immediately.”  The difference is that Mark really cares about us and does the best thing for us, not necessarily his business in the short haul.  The other business was out to make the quick buck in a non caring impersonal way.

The Dream Vacation lure

The Dream Vacation lure

I have been to a few sales presentations in the past.  They usually are ran about the same.  The one in particular that I remember was a time sharing presentation. A representative was assigned to us and this representative tried to find out everything he could about our situation.  The information he gathered was used to try uniting our needs to the service he was selling.  The representative was friendly and seemed to care about us as people.  After a little while there was a formal presentation showing the benefits of their program.  They didn’t get around to the price until much later.  Only after they had enticed us with all of the benefits did they let the price enter the picture.  It was the question on every ones mind as the presenter kept sweetening the benefits. All of the time he was building up our desire for their services as he led us through their wonderful presentation.  This involved being asked for our dream vacation spot and telling  how their plan could get us there economically!  At that point they specifically mentioned the price, but it was only the price of our dream trip, not the price to get into the program.  After the presentation the representative started asking questions about what we thought.  He reminded us that this was a one day offer.  If we rejected this offer it was done and over for us.  He then walked us through their basic rates which included a large lump sum payment that could be financed along with a yearly maintenance fee.  It is confusing to me how I would have to pay close to $300 a year for a maintenance fee along with say a $15,000 payment to join the organization.  Sure they could save me money on things, but it would take years of savings just to get back my original investment.  I still can’t figure out how my one week stay should involve paying the large maintenance fee to keep the place in order.  When you consider that they can sell that same room 52 times and collect close to $300 in maintenance fees each time you can see that a ton of money is going into their hands!

What happens in these situations is if the original representative cannot sell the program they call in their manager.  We found out that the manager has power to change prices around to close the sale.  For instance he or she might drop the original price from $15,000 down to $10,000.  That kind of thing is troublesome.  It reminds me of a local garbage service that raised their rates.  When a friend of mine complained saying they wanted to switch services because their price was higher than the others,  this company matched the lower offer.  They figured the ones that didn’t complain could just pay the higher rate.  When the closer couldn’t pressure us into buying the program (and believe me he tried extensively) by lowering the price three times, his attitude changed.  Now he wanted us to feel bad and stupid that we didn’t buy as he hurriedly filled out the rejection paperwork in a quick and abrasive way.  No longer were we the nice people that he cared so much about.  It became clear that he never really cared about us at all.  He faked it all until things didn’t go his way.  Then he turned on us like a poisonous snake as his true feelings were revealed.

When we are representing God it is an awesome responsibility.  I’ve heard that everyone is a salesperson in some way whether they want to be or not.  In Christianity it is the same way.  We are supposed to be demonstrating love, compassion, and caring. Sometimes people believe that is what we are all about until they discover that they were sadly mistaken. The damage that this causes is worse than if we never engaged them in the first place because their trust gets broken.  Once trust is broken it is very difficult to repair.  So the question I challenge you with today is “What kind of representative of the Gospel are you?”  Are you the one that can’t be found?  Do you pounce on people at the door?  Are you selfless in your mission or do you have a hidden agenda?  I’ve heard that people don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care.  Jesus said, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Now that is the ultimate attitude necessary to really care about people!

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