It was one Sunday afternoon that I had finished my usual chore of dishes and cleaning up the kitchen after our family lunch that my dad cornered me about the quality of work I had done. There were still crumbs left on the counters, there was still grease on the stove, and the sink still contained remnants of leftover food from our meal.
But instead of chewing me out or yelling at me about my poor job, he used it as a teaching moment.
"Sure, you've washed the dishes and gotten the job done. But have you done it well? Look at this stove - it looks like it was cleaned with a lick and a promise."
"What's a lick and a promise?" I asked.
"It means doing something in haste, not caring about how well it's been done. It means you've done what you were asked, but it shows that you really didn't care."
He went on to explain to me that day that someday I would have a job and an employer. I would be getting paid more than just an allowance for my work and if I did my job like I had cleaned up the kitchen, I wouldn't make it far. That my employer would notice how I worked and not only if I got the job done, but how well I did it and what my attitude was like.
I remember him telling me to go the extra mile. If I was asked to do the dishes and clean the counters, than I should sweep the floors and take out the trash too. If my job was to dust the living room, then I should dust all of the other rooms in the house as well. Not because I was asked or told to, but because working hard means going above and beyond what we are asked. It means taking initiative and showing someone that you pride yourself in what you do. That you care about your work and your name. If I could work like that, an employer would not only want to hire me, but would want to keep me as their employee.
He also said that more often than not it would seem like my employer wouldn't notice my hard work. That I wouldn't be thanked or commended or recognized for going the extra mile, for doing things right or quickly. I've experienced that to be true over the years. I have felt missed or jipped or taken advantage of quite a bit. But at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what goes unseen or not.
I remember him saying that when we work, we don't just work for others like our parents, our elders, or our employers. We work and should work as if we were working unto God. As if He was watching our every move. Would we skip corners and do our duties with a lick and a promise if God was standing right there? Well, to an eleven year old that sounded pretty intimidating. It was an image I pictured in my mind that stuck with me for years.
Maybe I perceive God differently than my eleven year old self used to. I don't see Him as a "boss" sternly observing my actions and judging my every move deciding if I'm worthy of a raise or promotion. But I still would want Him to be pleased with what I've done. Mostly though, I want to do a good job with a good attitude because it's a way others may know of Him because of how I live.
I've never worked perfectly. I've never always gone the extra mile or had a perfect attitude, but I've striven for that. It's always been my father's face and the memory of those talks that would convict my heart if I knew I had not done my job with excellence.
Those conversations happened quite a few times as I was growing up though. They often revolved around the cleaning of the cat-pan which was one of my most un-favorite chores in the entire universe. That was one task I almost always cut corners and did quickly because it was the smelliest job ever.
Though it wouldn't be my last. Try emptying the trash at a fast food joint where you serve ice-cream in the summer time. That rotten, sour smell still haunts me.....trash juice dripping down my arms after a trip to the dumpster. *shudders*
But I do remember that I was the only employee at that fast food chain that didn't complain about taking the trash out. In fact, I volunteered for the job. I wanted my boss to know that I wouldn't shy away from the dirty work and that I could be counted on to do those things with a good attitude.
Over the years, no matter where I've worked, my dad's wise words have always been with me. I do my work well. I don't cut corners. I go the extra mile. I take initiative and volunteer for things. I go above and beyond my job description. And I don't say any of that to brag on myself. I say all of that to honor him and how he raised me. Because of my dad and what he taught me about working and how to work, I have gotten as far as I have today, even without finishing a college degree.
I got hired for the job I went on an interview for yesterday. I'm stoked about the position and the place and the location and the people and the everything. And one of the reasons I was hired on was because of my character and integrity. Things my dad passed along to me. Lessons that were taught over crumbs on kitchen counters and outside on the porch where I would scrub out that nasty cat-pan. All those years, he was instilling that hard working character in me. Even if I didn't like it very much. And I didn't.
As I head off to my new job this morning, I'm thankful for the impact he had on me. How it has not only had value in the workplace over the years, but in my heart.