Today in prayer, I asked God, “what was the most faithful, most Christlike thing I did over the past weekend? What did I do that was good in your sight?” The answer that came back? When I stopped by the church Saturday morning to grab my vestments before heading to Topeka for the bishop’s consecration, I ran into our janitor. And I introduced myself.
Because the thing is, this guy has been working for us for months and I had no idea what his name was. He is the employee of a company with whom we have contracted to do the work, and this church is assigned to this guy. So here he is, mopping the floor listening to Tejano music and humming along, and I do not know this man’s name. There was a time when church’s listed their sextons (a much more dignified title) in their photo directories and websites. But not us.
It’s Gonzalo, by the way. He seems like a nice guy. I forgot to invite him to church.
This got me thinking about why people in the service industry wear name tags: our grocers and waitstaff and the people who change our oil. And disturbingly, I came up with two possible solutions. One, it might be an attempt on their part to force us to recognize their humanity and treat them more nicely (e.g. “Hi, I’m Michelle, and I’ll be your server tonight. Can we start with an appetizer?”). Second, and worse, it allows us to identify them and report them to their managers. It’s a tag. And we get to keep our anonymity.
I used to work those jobs. As a youth I was a salesperson in the sporting goods section of a department store. I worked for a brief time doing random surveys by telephone for a company doing research for healthcare providers (where, by the way, I often used a false name because I thought people would be less intimidated if I called myself “Stanley.”) And people treated me terribly sometimes and spoke to me in a way that would embarrass them if their pastor was standing next to them at the time.
Anyways, this in turn got me thinking about Lent and my Lenten discipline. During this season, any time I encounter someone in the service sector with a name tag, I’m going to introduce myself and thank them for serving me. No doubt I’ll come across as some sort of weirdo or creep sometimes, some person blithely crossing the social barriers we place between ourselves and the dozens of people who make our lives what they are on a day-to-day basis.
And maybe invite them to church, or at least ask them about their favorite music.