Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I am lowly...and that's ok

I actually have LOTS on my mind today... I feel like I've had a million conversations in the past two days (something surprisingly significant for me as of late), and I'm still in the midst of processing it all... but here's a start.

I am frustrated that I'm not as frustrated with my "lot in life" as I "ought to be." Confused?

I received a college education. Cool. I earned a degree. Excellent. I am now two years out of college. Neat. What do I have to show for it?

That's the question that always irks me. Something about it makes my heart twitch in the most uncomfortable fashion. Why is it that I feel that I have something to prove? Who am I trying to prove it to? And whose standards am I trying to live up to?

I majored in Theology and minored in Philosophy. Is that not enough? Is that not worth something? (Again, how do I measure this worth?) However, as a college grad, the constant question is, "Oh, so what are you doing with that?"

For one, how can one NOT use that kind of education? For one, I feel like it has strengthened my formation as a human being in general and as a Catholic specifically. Such an education can and will always benefit me because, in the end, isn't the state of my soul more important than my income? Regardless, people aren't interested in such an answer; they're interested in who's writing the paycheck.

"Well," comes my timid reply, "I'm actually working and managing full time at McDonald's."


That's it. "Oh." Instant dismissal. Feeling of worthlessness creeping in. I obviously wasted four years of my life and thousands of dollars of mine and my parent's money. What do I need a degree for if I'm taking up a career in fast food? I am a failure as a human being.

Wait. Says who? Whose judgment is it that I am so vehemently afraid of? Why is it that I cannot proudly state my current occupation with a smile on my face? Why don't I own it?

In truth, I *love* my job. I do. I love the people I work with. I love being able to serve people. I love helping the people I work with do the same with a smile on their faces. I love having the opportunity to be a source of joy in people's day simply by taking care of them the best I can.

No, I do not love all aspects of my days. No, I do not love all of my customers as well as I ought. However, at the end of the day, I know that I can take pride in what I do. The voice in my heart can say that with a quiet confidence because I am honestly at peace in this place.

So once again, why the inferiority complex?

I was speaking to my a lovely friend of mine, and we decided it's because there is no place for humility in this society. There is no love for service. We live in a society that prizes power and wealth above all other virtues (ah, capitalism). There certainly is no wealth in such a position, but there is a great power that is absurdly overrated.

For one thing, where on earth would those with power be without the ones who serve them every day??? Sometimes I wonder if they take the time to consider it. Sometimes, when facing a particularly rude customer, I think to myself, "How dare you look down on me. True, your patronage is the reason I get a paycheck, but where would you be if we, the 'lowly ones,' were not here to serve you your burgers and fries? The way you're acting, I'm led to believe you'd be truly lost, so buck up and show some respect. I am not less of a human being because I am serving you."

Sometimes I really wish I could say it. Instead, I smile and try to squeeze out whatever kindness I can muster.

That kindness is another key point when speaking of the power of service (I'm not trying to toot my own horn...just defending the "little guy"). There is an element of kindness and humility that almost follows service naturally. That is not to say that you will never be served by a cranky miss or mister (face it, we all have), but someone striving to do their job excellently cannot avoid being the face of kindness for the people they encounter every day. And that kindness is a truly. powerful. thing.

I might be the only smiling face a person sees in a day. So I'm going to smile with all I've got. I might be making the comfort food to ease someone's awful day. So I'm going to make that hamburger as quickly and as wonderfully as possible.

Gestures of service make a difference. I see it every day, especially in the faces of my regular customers. Regular. Customers. They don't just show up because we have yummy greasy burgers. They show because they appreciate the service they're given. It's beautiful.

I am not wealthy. I am still paying back my loans, and I will be a for a while. I do not have a prestigious job. I have a lowly job. And it's a job that suits me. To the person who thinks saying that sells myself short: you're crazy. I am a simple girl. Always have  been. Always will be. I am lowly. But that is not to say I don't have a lot to give. Because I do. I really do have a lot to give. I've just disovered that McDonald's is where I have to give those gifts right now.God has me here for a reason. Who am I to run from it kicking and screaming because the world has no respect for it?

God is choosing me to be one of His lowly ones. And that's ok.


  1. I hope I don't come off as mean. These are just thoughts.

    You yourself are calling your job 'lowly', using it in the detrimental tone of an accusing customer. Even if you are prideful of it being lowly, consider why you would even consider calling it that. Is it the pay? Is it the place? Is it people's perceptions of the job?

    Everybody has a problem in that we think everybody else cares about what everybody else is doing and that everybody else's opinions matter.

    To qualify a job as 'lowly' is meaningless. Consider not what other people think. Does the job you are doing fulfill YOU?

    A job should be something that helps others and contributes to society in some way. A job should provide an income to support you. A job should be something you enjoy doing. Perhaps in this order of importance.

    If all three of these are 'yes', then your job is not lowly. This term lowly is ridiculous in the first place; what is lowly about earning a living while helping people? It is only the image of fast food that you are considering then, when you say working at Mcdonald's is 'lowly'. And image comes from others opinions, and their opinions of fast food as lowly comes from pride, the parallel sin of envy.

    Comparing yourself to your neighbor only leads to envy, considering your job as lowly mocks humbleness in the sense that a person says 'Look at me, I am humble'. Of course there is a difference in accepting being humble, but it is a funny line.

    The fact that others compare themselves to you shows they have need of validation in their own lives - 'oh, you work in fast food, keep working hard and you'll work your way up the ladder.'

    Money? Is that the ladder? A ladder of prestige, where each rung you have to claw at the people above you and step on people below you to reach the top?

    If you tell somebody you work at Mcdonalds, but make enough to get by, help people and enjoy doing it, what is the difference in if you were working at a bank, a law firm, loading docks, etc? There is nothing lowly about any of these.

    In short, people care too much about what other people think, about image, when there is nothing intrinsically wrong with something. This is one of the greatest problems with society, and it is easy to fall into the trap.

  2. Mother Teresa once said (I paraphrase because I can't remember the exact quote) we don't have to travel to remote corners to serve the poorest of the poor. We can find them in our own back yard. Bringing a smile, joy, a kind word to a place such as McDonald's could easily make someone's day. You are not working a glamorous job but depending on how you approach it you could be working for God. So next time you tell someone "I am a manager of McDonald's." Smile and say it like it is something to be proud of and when they ask questions about that tell them "I am bringing a smile to others everyday."

  3. I honestly do not see the term "lowly" as a negative term. To be lowly is to be low in status or humble. I am not saying I own the virtue of humility because God knows I've got a way to go, but the service industry is lowly. That is a fact. And it is not a bad one.

  4. Thought experiment - Imagine applying for two jobs, one at McDonalds and one at a prestigious bank.

    For this particular applicant, starting pay and opportunities are the same, both job are service oriented, and the applicant would love what he/she do either way. The applicant considers both jobs as being equal in these respects, but the image of the bank is better in the public eye than McDonalds.

    1. Which job is more lowly

    2. After answering 1, which job is the better job?

    Essentially, does a job being 'lowly' make it a better job, and why would someone let public perception influence a choice that is equal to them?

  5. I understand what you're saying. This blog was more about me trying to own the decision not to base my worth based on other people's perceptions. Lowly does not equal better. Prestige does not equal better. What matters is where one is called. And I know that. I've just grown up in the habit of caring about other people's opinions. Writing this out for myself helps me to more concretely understand my own thoughts and where I'm going. But I appreciate your concern and input.