Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great Service is a Choice

On a mild, late September afternoon I travelled out to the Cavalcade campsite across from Abraham Lake (511.2 kilometers round trip). Forty grade 9 students and their counselors from our SDA schools had been camping there since Monday. What a lovely setting the teachers and kids had to enjoy. There were majestic mountains that outlined the skyline across the valley. And as the sun was setting you could see the features of an Indian's face and headdress silhouetted against the southern sky.

Once the campfire was lit and all the campers had gathered on their benches and picnic tables Shad Lehmann had a few announcements before worship. I used the theme of...."In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths." I tried to tie this into what God might have in mind for you as your life work. In other words stay in touch with Him, trust Him, and you will be amazed at how He will lead in your life. Then it was time for some "giveaways". There were choices of PAA shirts, pens with lights in one end, caps, and camouflage Bibles. How interesting to see the Bibles become the first choice.

Then to top the evening off my wife Karen had the hot chocolate container all set up. There were seven dozen donuts of every variety (apple fritters went first) all spread out on a picnic table and a hundred of the Okanagan's finest crisp apples. So what made the evening so rewarding? It was to be thanked and hugged by countless kids you didn't even know. It was to serve without expecting anything (other then new students next year) and yet be rewarded by thankfulness. As we serve together in God's family, our lives take on eternal importance. Paul said, "I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less . . . because of what you are a part of" (1 Corinthians 12:14a, 19 MSG).

God wants to use us to make a difference in this world. He wants to work through us. What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived. Let me illustrate the theme of our school year, "to serve" in another way by the following story:

No one can make you serve customers well. That's because great service is a choice. Years ago, my friend, Harold Justinen, told me a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this point. He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harold noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey. He handed my friend a laminated card and said:

"I'm Wally, your driver. While I'm loading your bags in the trunk, I'd like you to read my mission statement."

Taken aback, Harold read the card. It said:

Wally's Mission Statement:

"To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest, and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment"

This blew Harold away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean!

As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, "Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf."

My friend said jokingly, "No, I'd prefer a soft drink."

Wally smiled and said, "No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water, and orange juice."

Almost stuttering, Harvey said, "I'll take a Diet Coke"

Handing him his drink, Wally said, "If you'd like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today."

As they were pulling away, Wally handed my friend another laminated card. "These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you'd like to listen to the radio."

As if that weren't enough, Wally told Harold that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him. Then he advised Harold of the best route to his destination for that time of the day. He also let him know that he'd be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights, or, if Harold preferred, to leave him with his own thoughts.

"Tell me, Wally," my amazed friend asked the driver, "have you always served customers like this?"

Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. "No, not always. In fact, it's only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day. He had just written a book called You'll See It When You Believe It. Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you'll rarely disappoint yourself. He said, 'Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don't be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.'

"That hit me right between the eyes," said Wally. "Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customers were unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more."

"I take it this has paid off for you," Harold said.

"It sure had," Wally replied. "My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I'll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today. I don't sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can't pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it and I take a piece of the action."

Wally was phenomenal. He was running a limo service out of a Yellow Cab. I've probably told that story to more than fifty cab drivers over the years, and only two took the idea and ran with it. Whenever I go to their cities, I give them a call. The rest of the drivers quacked like ducks and told me all the reasons they couldn't do any of what I was suggesting.

Wally the Cab Driver made a different choice. He decided to stop quacking like a duck and start soaring like an eagle. How about you?

Landon Ritchey is the Director of Marketing and Enrolments Services
for Parkview Adventist Academy,
and CUC in PR and Alumni Special Projects
He writes from his purple and gold office in the PAA building...

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