One of the jobs I had as a teenager was in a service station. It was the worst job of my life because the manager of the servo was a very mean lady who seemed to enjoy making me feel small. I was not allowed to do any of the tasks that carried any responsibility because she had deemed me incompetent and limited my jobs to cleaning and restocking shelves. One day she supervised me as I mopped the floor. When I was finished, she told me it wasn’t good enough and made me start again.
I didn’t stay long in the job. I’d like to say I quit but she fired me because a fire extinguisher was left out after the store closed for the night. I wasn’t actually responsible for it being left out, but a head had to roll and I guess it was easiest to drag me to the chopping block.
There were other people in the store who received nicer treatment, but it depended on their level of importance to her; what she needed from them.
She ranked people.
Her area manager was clearly a ten. She was very nice to him. I probably ranked at a three. People who drove off without paying for fuel were zeros and the assistant manager was a six.
A few years ago I went to a conference for West Australian Baptist pastors where the keynote speaker was a man named Mark Conner. If we were handing out rankings according to importance or significant at that conference (no one was, but bear with me a moment) Mark Conner would have been a ten. Me, on the other hand, as a volunteer leader in my church, in my first year of seminary study, there because I was serving at the conference, might have been ranked as a two.
In the tea break, Mark Conner (ten) spoke to Yvette Cherry (two). And not that kind of ah-I’ll-lower-myself-to-speaking-to-the-help kind of way. It was hearty conversation; he asked me good questions and listened really well. He gave no sign of trying to make an exit. He was genuinely interested in me.
Later that night I checked in to the hotel we were all staying at. Mark Conner walked in as I was collecting my key. He noticed me and smiled saying, “goodnight, Yvette!”
He’d met me once and he’d remembered my name!
The next day he spoke about the idea that as we go through life we should see everyone as a ten. No matter their socio economic status, their position in your company, their gender or ethnicity, their level of personal hygiene or level of charisma. Whether they were the CEO, the cleaner or the receptionist. Everyone matters equally. Everyone is a ten. I could tell that Mark Conner practised what he preached.
Later that day I sat with my friend and colleague Sarah to eat lunch. Meal breaks at conference were a chance for leaders from churches across the state to catch up and network. There were many senior leaders present, men and women (mostly men) who had been in ministry for decades. Sarah and I sat alone at an empty table. We were new and didn’t know a lot of people.
A man entered the seating area with his plate of food. He was another Mark. Mark Wilson, Director of Ministries for Baptist Churches WA. In a business sense, he was the CEO of a network of companies. Clearly another ten. He scanned the room. There were plenty of spaces to sit among colleagues and friends.
But he sat down next to Sarah and I, and while we ate he encouraged us, listened to us and cheered for all the great things we were attempting. He affirmed us with his support and basically loved on us like a great leader does.
He could have sat with his friends and talked about the footy. But he didn’t. He chose to treat Sarah and I like we were tens.
I want to live like that. To go through life seeing everyone as a ten. No ranking people according to how important they make me feel, or what I can get from them.
Everyone’s a ten!