The Bottom of the Ladder

Apr 08, 2016

The Bottom of the Ladder


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #17
Rite of Passage Six –Early Tumult–
(1950-1951) Age 16-17 years old


Did you have a menial job you hated but later look back on as a great learning experience?

At sixteen I only had one good suit but as I recall it looked ‘business-like’ and because of my unusual height (6 foot) it made me look more like a younger ’manager’.

My Father, the hotel’s general manager, thought otherwise; I was told to change into older “more suitable clothes” if I really wanted to be a trainee manager…“You will have to start on the bottom rung.”At sixteen I only had one good suit but as I recall it looked ‘business-like’ and because of my unusual height (6 foot) it made me look more like a younger ’manager’.

And so it began, in the men’s restroom, that Brit’s often call a convenience. For years I’ve been amused by the American invitation to meet “at your earliest convenience,” an unusual venue for a business discussion?

My menial start led to several other ‘lesser’ roles that served to help me adjust to who I was. I was a beginner. I knew nothing!

So I started at the lowest rung and as I climbed the ladder I associated with many good people who would not advance and for various reasons were ‘destined’ to remain in less desirable occupations of service.

I still remember these consistent ones with affection because they took me in as one of their own. I was mentored in the menial by truly warm people.

So…what about now?

Sixty years later I have a very crowded “been there, done that” t-shirt and along with each job a set of tender memories of those who did a small thing and did it well (over and over again) until it was done.

This has provided me with a desire to somehow recognize those who do repetitive tasks and who are not accustomed to being thanked. This includes some wait staff, especially in low cost family or chain restaurants. I often introduce myself as “Graham” and ask for their name and then use it in my ordering and when paying the bill and saying thank you.

I will also stop –as somehow led (not always) and say ‘thank you’ to janitorial staff for the ‘great job you are doing’.

Can I somehow ask you to join me in this little thing that can mean so much to those upon whom we so frequently depend for both our safety and our enjoyment?

P.S. This week I read Treena’s poem Stars


  1. Ben Allaway Says: 7:13 pm

    Graham’s post reminds me that these simple acts of kindness are connections that the Holy Spirit rejoices in. Showing the love of God to one another is the fastest way to save the planet.

  2. Kerryn Says: 11:06 am

    I experienced that attitude of gratitude many years ago when living in a Christian community where we often hosted guest speakers to share at weekend retreats. Those of us living in the community made the beds, cooked, cleaned, waited & served on everyone & especially made sure that the well known guest speakers were well cared for. we always ate last at a little table away from the guests. We were stunned when after one of the last meals the guest speaker came over, thanked us individually by name & then insisted on getting our hot drinks for us & also insisted we all relax & finish our meals. He then cleared our dishes for us! It was a very tangible example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples! It’s left an indelible impression upon me. Since that time I’ve looked for those who rarely receive thanks. At church it’s those who arrange the flowers, the accountant, people setting up church or operating the data projector…. those behind the scenes. These people are beautiful servants who are quiet givers & are the ones that are true gems who open up when you spend time with them. Thanks for the great reminder Graham!

  3. Lynn Severance Says: 3:05 pm

    This posting grabs at a deep held belief I have and in sharing it, I am not pouncing on what Graham experienced in doing “menial tasks” but an appreciation of the conclusions he has come to as a result of those experiences. We (mankind) are interdependent on one another: from the farmer who sows the seeds to those who harvest the crops to those (including ourselves) who prepare a meal. Going beyond “food” analogies, status has been place by “who knows who” on work that is done and yet all work is important and, in my opinion, of equal value because we need each other. I feel (and express) the same appreciation when I thank my doctor for his input into my life as I do the young man at my apartment complex who saw me managing 3 bags of groceries and trying to get them to the 3rd floor. He hopped on over and with nary a breath swooped them up and bounded up the stairs, as he saw a need and could meet it and with a smile. I was effusive in my thanks! The gift of this posting by Graham goes way beyond who we may see or who may serve us when we are out at a restaurant. It is a spring board to becoming more aware of any other human being who crosses our path and our acknowledging them with a smile or a word so they know they are of value. Nothing is menial when it meets the purpose of serving another.

  4. Suzie Peterson Says: 9:19 am

    I was working at a small college town restaurant. Not much money there, so not many good tips. I was having a particularly busy and difficult day waiting on impatient students. I cleared a table and picked up a dollar bill with the word SMILE written across it. I looked up at the register to see the young man smile and wave. I returned his smile and kept it for the rest of the day!

  5. karl guggenmos Says: 8:49 am

    Today at church the question was asked what does it mean to “pick up your cross and follow me”
    The issues is that we have fallen prey to the health and wealth gospel that claims that following Christ means health and wealth will be given to us if we just believe in the positive and opportunities then God will always bless you with health and money because He does not want you to suffer and want you happy all the time.How tragic,because taking up his cross and follow means having burdens and having to make sacrifices,”denying
    ourselves and dying to self daily”
    We even understand trials in our lives but what we in the western world have not experienced is persecution/sacrifice and martyrdom.In the early church it cost you dearly if you “picked up His cross” and followed him.We here in the US and elsewhere in the West or democratic countries have no idea what that means.
    However in the 20th century there have been more people murdered and tortured for their faith then in any other time in History.ISIS,North Korea and many other regimes are murdering Christians with never before seen hatred and brutality. Thru out the history of China,the Soviet Union and other Stalinistic countries Christians where persecuted as well.
    And more close to home we experience our own periods of testing,as I am going thru some real hard times right now both financially and family wise.
    I have to admit I really don’t like these times and I am honest to god about this.However I also realize that they happen for a reason and maybe they are given to me to grow in compassion to those who also go thru them and will enable me better to help carry their cross with them.

  6. Jean N. Sozio Says: 2:55 am

    P.S And for dishwashers – talk about menial work. Thinking back on coming up the ladder in my first job. I worked as an entry-level technician for a well known fortune 500 company back in 1973. Learning the basics of being a responsible adult was monumental let alone imagining the things I would accomplish in years to come. The norm back then was to apprentice under a more experienced co-worker and work up the ranks according to seniority. I loved it and there was a clean sense of direction and fairness and accountability and ownership in what you had learned and were able to contribute. It was a time of corporate responsibility, loyalty to employees, and the vision of elders to create and leave a legacy for future generations. It is most unfortunate that our generation did not continue this on for those now subject to corporate greed and disloyalty. We were given the opportunity to succeed and be cared for in our retirement as those above us for which I am most grateful.

  7. Jean N. Sozio Says: 2:43 am

    We enjoy dining out frequently breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What a pleasure it is to always have a place to treat ourselves anywhere we go – thanks to the miriade of people who operate restaurants 24/7. We are always congenial with the wait staff – they work so hard for so little. My husband has a plus 5 blessing that he likes to bestow to the server whereby he will add $5.00 on to the tip amount just to bless the server. We get a kick out of seeing their eyes light up and smile at the surprise gift. We often get email alerts from our credit card company warning us that too much tip was charged and perhaps may be fraud on the part of the restaurant. We just laugh and ignore it. The one person who rarely gets raves from the customers is the cook – there should be a way to tip him/her. Without the dedication of the cook none of this joy on our part would be possible. Hooray for chefs!!

  8. Ian Says: 3:02 pm

    Perhaps recognizing the importance of another’s contribution is not as important as making sure that she or he has actually heard you. It is so easy to toss a coin into the “tip jar”, mumble something and depart. How often do we attempt to make eye contact to ensure if we are being heard. It is so common for the voice to be raised in complaint, in an attempt to single out whoever did not meet your standards.

  9. Brendan B. Says: 11:00 am

    As a restaurant kitchen veteran of some 37 years, I always–and I do mean always–thank the staff whenever I’m dining out. It is extremely difficult to “get it right” –much harder than a great crew makes it look. So I make sure to acknowledge jobs well done. It results in a better experience in both directions, and it might just inspire someone to reach higher than they might be feeling.

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