When I returned to my hometown on the beach after my first year of college, I took a summer job waitressing at a restaurant that was popular with the folks on vacation. I was in a different world. Instead of classes and meetings my time was ruled by the breakfast, lunch and dinner shift and my mood could rise and fall depending on how well my table understood the principle of tipping on 15% of the total check.
While I knew I was lucky that my town had so many summer job opportunities, it was a bit of a culture shock. I worked with all sorts of people, from all walks of life. After or before work, they engaged in a variety of activities including summer school, tanning, a day job, or growing marijuana.
Some of the customers were so kind ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù asking me how my day was going and what I was studying in school. Some were entertaining, like the cute life guard from North Dakota whose friends told him to try grits while he was in the South. And some were obnoxious ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù sending me back and forth to the kitchen a dozen times and then walking out on the bill.
This will never end
After an especially trying day with my co-workers and customers, I flopped on the floor of my bedroom feeling defeated. It felt like August and my sophomore year of college would never arrive. I'd be serving chicken fingers, biscuits and sweet tea forever and my hair would never stop smelling like bacon (which I've come to learn is actually not a bad thing).
Flicking on my CD player (which is how we listened to music before the internet) the song lyrics cited Hebrews 13:2:
'Do not neglect to show hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.'
Scripture and the lives of the saints have many examples of people who rose above uncomfortable situations to recognize Christ in those around them. Even though I felt surrounded by strangers, I was inspired by the stories of those in Scripture who were challenged to serve those around them even when it wasn't easy (check out the books of Esther, Judges and Tobit for some cool examples).
God had aided them with help from both humans and angels. I could be confidant that even though I felt like I was in an unfamiliar place, He would help me too.
A New Resolve
I pasted this verse to the inside of the notepad I took orders on and resolved to not see this summer job as simply a means to an end, but as a mission.
For these few months, I was in a group of people that I would most likely have never met otherwise. And, a group of people who might not frequently’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùif ever’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùencounter a Catholic.
While I didn't always succeed, for the rest of the summer I resolved to try to be a reflection of Christ to my co-workers and customers’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùto remember that I was not only 'entertaining angels' but serving Christ in those I worked with. I was honest, didn't skip out on work that we all had to help with and was patient when others needed my help.
Summer jobs can pose some challenges to your faith, integrity, and sanity but they are also a chance to fearlessly live the Gospel.
Don't miss this unique opportunity.
A few practical tips:
- Be clear about your beliefs and values from the beginning. This doesn't mean throwing a bible at your co-workers, but consider any possible conflicts with your values’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùfor example, working on Sunday mornings or a questionable dress code’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùand talk about them with your superiors before accepting the position.
- Keep in mind that while it may seem like an eternity, you're only going to be at this job for a few months and lifeguarding at the local pool or serving up waffle fries at the drive through probably won't be your life-long career. However, the consequences of your decisions could remain with you long after you turn in your apron and fry hat’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùbe sure they are consequences you can live with.
- Workplace crushes are a reality, and there's nothing that says you won't find your soulmate folding t-shirts at Old Navy. However, before you dive into a summer romance with a co-worker, consider what you have in common besides your job. Do you share a bond besides the 13 hours a day you spend under the same roof?
Your summer job is a chance to share Christ through your words and deeds. It's not just a few months off ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù it's your mission!