We’ve all heard ourselves or someone else say things like “Well, from where I sit” or “From my perspective”. When you hear this, whether you asked for it or not, you know you’re about to get their opinion on a particular subject matter. Last week I had a moment that was a literal “From where I sit”. If you know anything about me, you know that food and the hospitality industry has been a passion of mine for most of my life. My first real job, at 13, was bussing tables at a restaurant. It was there that I first learned how to clean and reset a table with precision and efficiency. So many life lessons learned under the tutelage of people, most who had no idea the impact they were having on this 13 year-old cerebral sponge. Eleven years later, I was on the management team of a restaurant group. Along the way, by osmosis and by direct teaching, I understood that the customer isn’t always right, but it is important to understand their perspective, to empathize with their experience and to be wiling to learn. Always be a learner.
So, back to the “from where I sit” situation… I walked into a crowded, busy restaurant and asked for a seat at the breakfast counter. I have sat here on many occasions and enjoyed the view into the open kitchen, watching, over the last 15 years, as the kitchen crew worked their magic in creating dishes that were tasty and enjoyable. This time was different though. And to be fair, I noticed it after coming back from the covid hiatus, that things were different. But, this time, even more so. I was seated at the corner of the bar, which was fine, but as soon as I sat down I realized that the owner either didn’t care about what I saw or had not sat where I was sitting. Directly in front of me were three boxes, one stacked on top of the other. Next to the boxes was an espresso machine in desperate need of cleaning and polishing. The space that I could see through gave me a view of open shelving. This shelving, in earlier days, was impressively filled with dishes that were arranged and organized for the delight of slightly OCD people like myself that are sitting at the counter. Those days are long gone and now it’s just an unsightly clutter. As my eyes moved to the right, past the space, I was now staring at a stainless steel soda machine that hasn’t been cleaned properly in anyone’s recent history. Hot water and stainless steel polish would do justice to this corn syrup, sweetly carbonated, goodness-spewing machine. Of course, after observing all of this, my eye is drawn to the other end of the counter where a pile of rags and cleaning solutions are piled in the corner and then, up to the ceiling over the area where my food is being prepared and the greasy, dust-filled air handling vents overhead. About that time, my order of Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Hash arrived and my attention became focused. Seriously focused on the tasty, cooked-to-perfection food in front of me. Here’s the thing. What I observed earlier didn’t change the way the food tasted, but it changed the way that I felt about the restaurant. There is less confidence in a wholehearted recommendation when the details don’t seem to matter like they used to. Yes, the food is still delicious, but our experience is never siloed. One thing impacts another thing and another and another. It is the understanding of the wholistic experience that is misplaced and forgotten when we often most need to remember it.
Comfortability with our surroundings. Our methods. Our procedures. Our “because we’ve always done it that way'” will be the things that will stunt our growth and impede our progress. If we just want to maintain the status quo or are only intent on reaching those people, customers and guests that will easily forgive our lack of attention and care in lieu of those that might be unfamiliar with our “product”, we will never reach our full potential and can easily move backward as life cycles around us and eventually forgets us.
So, what are you seeing? Are there things in your life that are disordered and unsightly? If you sit back and look at your surroundings are there some things that need attention? What about the things you can’t see? The clutter in your head? The disordered thoughts? The misaligned loves? If the owner of the restaurant doesn’t get a fresh perspective, doesn’t sit where I sat, he will never make the necessary changes to keep his business thriving and growing. Yesterday, I talked to our team at RESTōR about this. Because what is true in a business, is true in a church or any organization that is making the worthwhile effort to add value to the lives of our community. Same is true for our inner life – so get perspective. What do you see? Don’t ignore the areas that show up, though long -ignored , ’cause there’s bacteria and other stuff growing where it shouldn’t and that’s just gross and doesn’t stand a chance in the competitive, inter-connected world of food and life.