Most children learn to serve by making their beds, picking veggies from the family garden, shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, or setting the table. Those in the military are in service to their country. Many who first arrived on America’s shore came as indentured servants, those who worked for four to seven years to repay their passage.
I remember both our sons’ first paying jobs. They mowed neighbors’ lawns, cooked at Fuddruckers, and worked 60-hour weeks at a local deli. They got the Latin connection between servant and serf! Public servants, aka politicians, once served a term or two and then returned home to work as citizens. Somewhere, however, the concept of serving is slipping from America’s lexicon and experience. Mike Rowe, former opera singer turned television actor, calls his foundation mikeroweWORKS. For those who seek training to do many service jobs, Rowe offers scholarships. Too many college-degreed people train for jobs that no longer exist or that are already glutted with too many applicants. How many MBAs can this country use? Yet many other jobs, often involving labor and/or serving, need qualified workers. Do we want only shirt and tie jobs? Do we expect a six-figure salary the second year we’re employed? Perhaps the more telling question for our future is this: what attitudes are we planting in the next generation?
The Chick-Fil-A organization trains its employees to respond with a quick smile and a hearty, “My pleasure.” This fast food chain hires from the general population, but Chick-Fil-A executives realize that employees who offer pleasant responses and cordial service cost nothing more, but bring in tons of good will from loyal customers. It’s the old “service with a smile” concept!
Even three-year-olds can take dishes to the counter at the end of a meal. I know … parents or grandparents can do the task more quickly, perhaps more safely, but don’t miss the golden opportunity when kids want to help. And how about those school backpacks children pose with in first-day photos? Who carries that bulging tote into school and then out of the car by week three? Keep giving those serving tasks to your children. We serve the next generation when we teach them the responsibility and then the joy in serving. We have few years to instill serving before the sun sets.