Time To Serve

When I was still waiting tables, I worked with a friend who had been at the waiting gig as long as I had and had wanted to get out of it for as long as I had. Having finally gotten married, quit drugs, and had a few kids, his attentions settled enough that he discovered his own small internet business. It was not a get-rich-quick kind of business, however, and he would report to me daily on the sales he did or did not make that morning. His wife worked in the restaurant also, and one evening before dinner shift she came running into the kitchen where I was cutting butter. “Bill,” she said. “He wants to quit. He says he can’t take it anymore. Talk to him. He’ll listen to you. Please talk to him.”

I understood her panic. They had a new house and two small children. The business was still in its infancy. But no one had ever asked me to talk to someone in this way. It was one thing to do it theoretically, but another thing to do it in a moment of crisis. On this evening, however, I did not have time to doubt myself. In another moment there was my friend, full of his impatience and frustration and fear that what he wanted would never come.

“Listen,” I told him. “You’ve just planted this thing. You’re watering it and watering it and it’s growing. You quit now, and it will be like trying to harvest grain that isn’t mature. Don’t worry. It’s all growing. It’s growing every day, but sometimes it grows so slowly you don’t even notice it. But it is growing and it will be what you want it to be.”

He did not quit that day and his wife came to me later in the evening and thanked me. But I should have thanked her. In talking to my friend I had to first go to a place within me I was frequently searching for myself. Only there could I find what needed to be said.

I told my friend’s wife not to worry, that he would be fine, and went out onto the floor to serve – a calling, I was beginning to understand, I would never actually quit.

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