“My pleasure.”

The young woman behind the register was quick with the kindness and the smile. She handed my granddaughter an ice cream cone and was rewarded with a wide smile and wider eyes.

Service. It’s great when you receive it. It’s tough to give it.

What was begun by Chick-fil-A as respect for their patrons and gracious service has infiltrated other fast food stores. I’ve heard more “My pleasure” comments in the past few months than I have in the past few years.

Kind service makes people smile.

Usually.

But what happens when our best efforts and grand intentions don’t get acknowledged? Or they’re laughed at and disrespected?

Kind of makes you think twice about answering with “My pleasure.” When I get attitude like that, I want to answer with, “Want to see my pleasure?”

And it wouldn’t be service-oriented.

My daughter Debbie and her soccer team from Lee University work some weekends in Bristol, TN at a NASCAR raceway. They serve food in the boxes to the higher paying customers to make money for their season. It’s not easy–they work from 6 a.m. to midnight two days in a row to help pay for uniforms and the other necessities of a collegiate team.IMG_1816

They didn’t mind the work. (You should see their practices!) And the hours are college-minded. (Who sleeps there except for catnaps in class?)

What they did mind was the response of the people they served.

“People expected us to serve them but then treated us like we were a bother. Old guys would hit on us a lot of the time, and it would be just uncomfortable. They treated us like we were second-class citizens, not worth their time or kindness. They even mocked us.”

This from my 21-year-old.

Here was the clincher.

IMG_3291“It gave us a lot of perspective. It made me think twice about how I treat others who are serving me.”

It’s perplexing. (Notice their expressions after their first 18-hour day.) Serving is held up as a gracious expression of care, compassion and humanitarian effort. We serve those in need. We serve those who are hurt or lost or unable to help themselves.

But even in those altruistic acts, I know I yearn to be recognized for that service. To have people know I was kind enough to give of my time and energy.

Being treated like a servant–or slave–really takes away from the joy of serving.

Doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron!

Truly great leaders, however, are characterized by their servant leadership. By their willingness to give of themselves rather than demand recognition for themselves.

Jesus is the best example of that. The Son of God, coming from Glory, to live among us. Love us. Serve us.

When His disciples were arguing over who was the greatest among them, He reminded them that this was the argument people always fall into.

“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served–and then to give away His life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”  Matthew 20:26-28

I struggle, like my daughter, with wanting to be applauded for service rendered. At least thanked. But Jesus reminds me that to serve means to think of the other person. Not to do for others to get something in return but from a heart willing to give without thinking of what I’ll get.

Maybe not my way. Definitely the better way.

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