Bernhardt column: A servant’s heart

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 9, 2011

There was a story in the news recently about an appearance by a Hooters waitress at a school career day.
Before your imagination runs wild, she didnít appear in her regular Hooters garb. She was appropriately dressed for her elementary school audience, and spoke to them about her life in the restaurant industry and the many challenges found therein.
Naturally, there was an upset parent, but her reason for being upset wasnít what you would think. She was disturbed because ěitís like weíre telling out kids ëthis is all youíll ever beí.î
This is all youíll ever be?
Like many Americans, I eat out a lot. More than I should. I suppose itís because Iím addicted to the notion that time is precious, too precious to spend it actually cooking on a daily basis. Iím also addicted to the notion that they can prepare food a lot better than I can.
I have a great admiration for not only the people who prepare the food but the people who serve it. I try to treat them with the respect I think they earn every day.
Itís not easy catering to an impatient public day in and day out, and the great majority of the service staff I encounter do their jobs with a sense of pride and accomplishment we all should possess.
I watch as they endure the slings and arrows of customers who have been taught that wait staff occupy the lowest tier of societal importance, and treat them accordingly. ěWhereís the stupid waitress with my coffee?î I hear them bellow, just before they leave a token tip and not so much as a thank you.
I had a co-worker once who delighted in sending food back to the kitchen if even the slightest thing was wrong with it, sometimes two or three times during the same meal.
ěThese people have to be taught that Iím the customer and I expect my order to be the way I want it before Iím willing to pay for it,î she would crow.
She moved on to another job, much to my delight.
Iíve had my day brightened by a simple smile from one of these soldiers of service. Many of them know my name, and I like that. They treat me like I matter, but what I want them to know today is they matter.
They possess what I call ěa servantís heart,î something we all could use these days. Like the milk of human kindness, itís in short supply. In fact, weíre running dangerously low.
Think, for a moment, the greatness we could achieve as a nation and a culture if we could all realize one simple fact: Weíve all been placed in this world to serve not our own selfish interests, but to serve each other.
How different our lives would be.
Imagine a Congress, or any elected body for that matter, full of individuals actually committed to the notion of service to their fellow man. We have a few already, but we need many more.
Our nationís elected officials should leave their offices exhausted and nearly broke from their years of service. As it is though, a recent report found that the great majority leave far wealthier that when they arrived. That doesnít suggest service to me.
Even our recent Black Friday shopping experience wouldíve been affected. Instead of people climbing over each other, clawing their way to the best bargains for themselves, we would have seen people falling all over themselves to help others find the better deals.
But thatís pure fantasy, isnít it? Probably. We just donít seem to be wired that way.
So how do we grow this ěservantís heartî? Does it require a transplant?
No, the good news is ó we already have it. We simply have to activate ó and use it. Thatís when life gets different.
Refreshingly different.
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.