Near the beginning of the year in Phoenix there’s an enormous used book sale put on by the VNSA. When I attended this year I prioritized looking for books about leadership. My husband and I have been leaders of a small group from our church for about two years now. My goal planning this year made me realize that I wanted to cultivate better leadership skills in 2018. (Writing this makes me chuckle at how good God is.) I thought I was going to do this through reading books about leadership.
I did get a few at the VNSA and I haven’t read a single one. Our church, Axiom, also does quarterly leadership workshops. Sometimes they’ll distribute books they think will encourage us in our walks with Christ and with whatever leadership role we’re in. They provided us an excellent book about leadership and I made it halfway through before life happened and I set it aside. My human efforts to make myself a better leader so far have been failing.
Then Mark and I picked up a workbook on leadership to go through together. With our schedules being so crazy we wanted something that could bring us together in the short hours where they overlapped. Enter this leadership workbook. And finally through this workbook God made it clear what He’s been doing in my life the past few months.
In March I got a job as a dietary aide. Most people have never heard of this job. I often describe it as half cafeteria lady, half waitress. A dietary aide works in assisted living, skilled nursing, rehab, and memory care facilities. Essentially I am a server but I work in a setting where the person I’m serving might require a special diet for medical reasons. They might need to eat only pureed foods, or need a renal diet for dialysis, or a diabetic diet, etc.
My job essentially is serving food to a senior community. They no longer live in independent living, the facility where I work means that these individuals have now reached a point where, for whatever reason, it is unsafe for them to live alone. They require more care. Along with that care comes a whole host of other characteristics that are necessary for ensuring they get the care every human being deserves. They require empathy, compassion, patience, and a smile.
I wanted to learn about leadership through books. I didn’t want to get my hands dirty, I wanted the theoretical knowledge that I could apply to my safe easy beloved small group. I feel like that’s where God chuckled. Instead of what I wanted God gave me what I needed. He put me at the front lines of servant leadership. He gave me a job that, frankly, I am extremely overqualified for. This has required a lot of humbling myself on my part. On recognizing that I am not too good or too educated to be doing this immensely important work. He gave me a job that was way out of my comfort zone. I never really had grandparents and so wasn’t really sure how to interact with this population. I’ve never been a server in my life and suddenly had to take orders and remember requests and get everyone their food in time (and to the right person).
Taking orders, fixing mistakes (even when they aren’t my own), putting their wants above my own, listening to them, being patient with them as they struggle to find the words or to read the menu, empathizing with them when one says they are waiting to have dinner with a spouse that’s passed away, seeing true love in action as a husband comes for dinner and feeds his wife… Who needs leadership books? Just go work as a dietary aide for a few months and I bet you’ll meet Jesus there. I certainly do.