Ministerial Musings: Common Courtesy By The Rev. Dr. John Tamilio III

Ministerial Musings: Common Courtesy

The Rev. Dr. John Tamilio III

“Woh — oh, what I want to know, is are you kind?”

~ The Grateful Dead, “Uncle John’s Band”

His name is Mark.  I see him every morning when I drop my son Jay off at school and grab a quick coffee at the convenience store around the corner from my home on the west side of Lakewood.

I thought Mark owned this store and was surprised when I found out he only worked there.  In retrospect, I believed Mark was the proprietor of Convenient Food Mart because he takes so much pride in his work.

Mark always smiles at customers and talks with them as if he is an old friend.  He makes sure the counter where patrons can grab a coffee or a slushie is always clean.  The shelves are always stocked and neat and every delivery person knows Mark by name — and he knows theirs.

So why a religious article about a clerk at a corner store?

Customer service is a rarity.  More often than not when I (and probably you) go to the store, the cashier does not look us in the eye or say a word to us, other than giving us the total of our purchase.

We’re not much better.  How often do you talk on your cell phone at the checkout counter and pay no attention to the teenager working for a little over minimum wage or the elderly person who needs the money to pay for necessary prescriptions?

I recently heard former Plain Dealer and Pulitzer Prize - winning columnist Connie Schultz say that her father used to say that she could tell how good a man was based on how he treated the waitress.  How true!  Schultz observed that our character can be measured by how we treat those we can easily mistreat: the cashier, the waitress, the hotel maid, the landscaper who speaks broken English.

And then there is Mark.

Mark deserves to be treated with respect not just because he treats others the same way, but, rather, because he is a human being wonderfully made in the image of God just like you and me.  Mark has pride in who he is and what he does and shares that with everyone he meets.  That is a value more of us need to possess.

Life is hard enough.  The dour economy finds us counting every penny and tolerating maltreatment and exploitation at the hands of superiors so that we can keep our jobs.  In school our children are polarized and harassed for the grotesque pleasure of the bully who never learned the Golden Rule.  There’s drug abuse, crime, domestic violence, looming environmental catastrophes — do we have to be rude, cruel, and selfish as well?  Do we?

Those on the right and left speak of Christian values, and we often disagree on what those values are.  The right claims that the right to life is a Christian value.  The left argues that a woman’s right to choose takes moral precedence.  Although not mutually exclusive, the abortion issue polarizes those on each side of the sanctuary.  The same can be said about capital punishment, same gender marriage, militarism, health care, immigration — you name it.

But common courtesy and mutual respect?  Aren’t those values we all share?  I know Mark does.  He does so every day.  I can only pray that I do, too.

John Tamilio III, Ph.D. is the religious columnist for The Lakewood Observer.  He is also the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland.

John III Tamilio

John Tamilio III is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, an accomplished guitarist, and a nationally published author. His first book of poetry, Blind Painting, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters in 2003. He and his wife, Susan, live in Lakewood, Ohio with their children: Sarah, “Jay” (John IV), and Thomas.

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Volume 8, Issue 2, Posted 8:09 PM, 01.24.2012