SHARING and CARING…it’s what LIFE is all about!

Service…The Way it Used to be

Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Blog, Food for Thought, Memories | 4 comments

“Life is Service. Service is Joy”

On the way to a much needed and overdue chiropractic appointment, I heard the following on the radio, “Have you noticed lately how much service is not as prevalent as it once was?” The first thought that came to mind was my job in my late teens as a clerk for Eaton’s in downtown Toronto. I sold hankies! Men’s. Ladies’. Linen. Silk. Lace. White. Ecru. Some with embroidered flowers, others plain and practical. There wasn’t a hanky we couldn’t provide and we did it with a smile! Mrs. Campbell, the department manager made sure of that. Service with a smile was her motto and that definitely included the right attitude.

Our counter had its own cash register, and never less than two clerks provided service at all times. Sweet elderly ladies bought simple hankies, 4 to a box. Young brides-to-be leaned toward the impractical and purchased a deluxe one: a three inch square of linen edged with a four inch border of intricate lace. Often a department head rushing to a meeting on Saturday mornings would want to spruce up his suit. I would fold a man’s linen handkerchief into four points, reach across the counter and place it into the chest pocket of his jacket. Patting his pocket gently, he’d nod appreciation and with a wave of thanks, rush off toward the nearest elevator.  Even as a teenager, it felt good! I loved my job and I loved going to work. It was a personal and gratifying experience each time I served someone, regardless of their station in life.

Unfortunately, today’s world has changed. From self-serve gas stations, to central or automated and very impersonal checkouts in department and grocery stores, to on-line banking, it seems the art of serving another has been lost along the way. Life has become clinical and I’m sure the Mrs. Campbells of past generations would agree.

Perhaps we are victims of too busy a lifestyle, and time—or lack of it—has dictated how or if we interact with others. Perhaps the ongoing evolution in technology has lured us away from family fun times. Perhaps an unhealthy time spent in front of the TV or on our computers, tablets or iphones has/is eroding the need or desire to interact with others on a personal basis, you know, the eyeball-to-eyeball kind of interaction.

On the other hand, maybe we have become a bit apathetic. Self-focussed. Self-absorbed. Maybe we find it easier to remain in our tightly spun cocoon so we don’t have to deal with another person’s problems or demands. Quite frankly, it would have been easy to look the other way when the department head needed help, or at best, let the other clerk deal with him. I sure would have missed out on some major character-building in my young life. And how sad that would have been!

Just yesterday an eighty-year-old man told me that if he couldn’t sell his expensive piece of furniture, he would take an axe to it rather than give it away. I challenged him gently, suggesting he donate it to a worthy organization, perhaps helping a family who were in desperate need of assistance having lost their home and all their possessions in a fire. His response did not change, and I listened quietly as he adamantly repeated his intentions two more times. It became apparent that he had no intentions nor the desire to serve another through an act of  kindness. There was no joy or generous spirit in this elderly man, and I pitied him.

Rabindranath Tagore ~ 1861-1941

The great thinker, Rabindranath Tagore (also, a poet, short story writer, song composer, novelist, playwright, essayist and painter) said, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Experiencing joy as a result of service makes me think that perhaps we need to reevaluate how often we make ourselves available. We can’t change everyone or everything. On-line banking is here to stay and we are destined to have technology looming over us. But we need to be careful we don’t miss out on the opportunity—maybe even the privilege— of serving someone else…even if it’s in selling a hanky.

And one more thought: One act of kindness may teach more about the love of God than many sermons (Our Daily Bread, April 22, 2014). Something to think about.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Heather

    I remember being able to purchase handkerchiefs at Kingsmill’s, Eaton’s and Simpson’s. They were special, at least to me. I still have a couple in pristine condition. I also remember being able to buy nylons and how the saleslady would open the box, separate the tissue and gently put her hand in a nylon to display the colour and sheerness. Service was always given with a cheerful attitude and smile. I and others would come away feeling good with the service given. I agree, personal service has definitely diminished greatly over the years.

    Service given selflessly displays kindness even in the smallest things and does impact others with His love.

    Thanks for the great reminder, Ruth.

    • Ruth Waring

      Heather, your remarks walked me through the rows of downtown Eaton’s to the hosiery department. I, too remember experiencing the kind of service you’ve mentioned. My clerk actually put on white gloves before putting her hand in the nylons! My mother sold men’s hose (as it was abbreviated back then) for years. Eaton’s stood by its word and if a person wasn’t satisfied, there would be a cheerful refund. My mother told stories of how socks would be returned after being worn and washed with the excuse they didn’t fit! Our world has indeed changed, but I’m quite sure there are still those who would return worn socks without a second thought. Aren’t memories grand!! Trust you are keeping well.

  2. Susan Duke

    Beautifully written Ruth and right on the money. We need to step back a little and remember to remember the good things from the past and not arbitrarily throw them away because they aren’t driven by technology.

    • Ruth Waring

      Thanks, Susan. There’s so much written these days about the latest and greatest in technology that I hesitated in taking a less popular slant. However, I followed my heart and wrote what it dictated. I’m always amazed at the outcome. As always, your comments are appreciated. Miss you!!

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