We stood around, enjoying a couple of minutes of down time as we waited for the lunch rush to begin. I don’t remember exactly who said what, but a dare was issued for a guy-type, could-get-you-in-big-trouble escapade. Aaron’s face lit up, his eyes danced with mischief. I could practically see the wheels of his mind churning. He spouted a clever response that by the way his glance caught mine, clearly said he knew I would not approve.
A huge ornery grin spread across his face as his fellow employees snickered.
“Nah, you wouldn’t do it,” Anthony further challenged, “not if Beth’s around. She brings out the best in us.”
“Ah, Anthony.” I was touched. Our eyes met, and his clearly said he meant it.
The lunch crowd poured in. The moment passed.
Although I was flattered, I wasn’t sure I considered myself deserving of the compliment. The brief exchange simmered in my mind over the next couple of days. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted those simple word to be true of me. I wanted to be the kind of person who brought out the best in people. Especially the impressionable young people I worked with each day.
I liked the thought that I was having a positive impact on these guys. Okay, liked doesn’t quite cut it. On the inside I was jumping with excitement. Could it be I was getting through to them? Maybe when they rolled their eyes at my comments, suggestions and what might at times be considered gentle nagging, the words were still finding a home in their hearts and minds.
You see, Aaron at 18 had moved three states away from home to be close to his girlfriend. Anthony and his young wife were parenting their first child, also a long way from family. Then there was John whose life had lacked sorely in the parenting department since he was a young boy. And Stephanie whose groom shipped out to basic training on their two month wedding anniversary, exactly two weeks after discovering that she was pregnant.
All were facing the very real world of adulthood. Some shifts found them eager to share the happenings in their lives—the good and the bad and the man-I-had-no-idea-it-would-be-like-this. Other days, silence and grunts told me things could be better.
I enjoyed working with this fun, energetic, adventurous group. Sure, the labels a tad mischievous, a bit rambunctuous, and more than a smidge ornery also applied. Some days their antics tried my patience, forcing me to use my I-mean-business tone. But most of the time, they brightened my day. I hoped they could say the same.
After all, isn’t that that we’re supposed to do? Bring out the good, the positive, the very best in those we live with, work with, those whose paths cross ours. Yep, we are.
Proverbs 27:17 reminds of this. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (NIV)
Not that we all—regardless of our age—couldn’t benefit from some sharpening, teenagers and young adults need, even crave, the impact of positive attention from adults. Not the nagging “Shape up or else and cut your hair while you’re at it!” kind of attention. They thrive on “Hey, how’s it going? What’s new in your life?” affirmation that says I care about you.
I no longer work with Aaron, Anthony, John or Stephanie. They’ve moved on, but I’ll never forget any of them.
New names and faces, situations and circumstances fill the daily shifts now. Each one represents a new opportunity to impact a life.
I challenge you, amid the busyness of life, to take time to see people and their needs then get involved in their lives.