Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Was the Sandwich Made with Love

When I was a podiatrist and had a satellite office in Harrison, Arkansas, we often ate lunch at the Mennonite Sandwich Shop.  The sandwiches were fantastic, carefully made, with quality ingredients, and carefully packaged,  but there was something more to them; there was an indefinable something about those sandwiches, and it occurred to me that they had been made with love.  And there were times that we would buy the sandwiches, and even though the quality was there, something was missing, and it seemed to my intuitive self that the missing ingredient was, again, love. For some reason, on that day, the sandwich, though made with expertise was not made with love, and it left us unsatisfied.
Have you ever been to a four star hotel?  Perfect appointments, impeccably clean, every possible creature comfort at your disposal....  the same with the services delivered by our airlines.  Fantastic service can be rendered. Yet in both these instances the driving force is not love but competition and the desire to make a profit.  I do not know your experience but even in such perfect circumstances there is a vacuum of the spirit, that leaves one empty.  The service, though impeccable, does not reach to the deepest levels of our need for beatitude, the beatitude that only love can bring to our souls.

It is recorded in I Corinthians 13 that without love nothing we do is ultimately profitable.  When we turn my attention to the world of manufacturing where I work, I see the same principle at work.There is a considerable degree of restiveness amongst some of the employees;  though the pay is 'competitive' with similar work in similar companies, and the benefits as well, there is a sense of deep dissatisfaction.  And I believe that sense of dissatisfaction comes down to the fact, though it has not been articulated by the employees, that they are being used as a means to an end, and are not a part of the 'end' of the company.  The company is in the pursuit of maximum profitability, and part of their formula is keeping the employees happy enough so that the end of maximum profitability can be reached.  But human beings do not find their deepest needs of affiliation met with mammon and material security- they need love to live in a state of beatitude.  Yet the corporatist model, corporatist capitalism, functions to produce maximum profitability.
Likewise, management at our work has a certain degree of restiveness with the employees.  Our CEO addressed our shift. They had had round tables where employee grievances were expressed, and some were not placated by the things that were offered to the employees and they expressed those grievances.  The CEO came back with a 'love the company, or leave it' sort of speech.  And as I have thought about it, the CEO as well, was suffering for a want of love from the employees.  And it is the truth that not only does the company treat the employees as a means to an end, but the employees treat the company as a means to an end as well, for they are working, not out of love for the company and its mission and for management with whom they co-labor, but are working to get money- they are treating the company and management as a means to an end as well, and not loving management or the mission of the company.
I have a friend who works at Bunn Corporation and they are a company that fascinates me because their corporate vision is more or less this 'to do what we do well enough to take care of our people.'  And that is what they do; I have heard a number of stories that reflect this vision and it is inspiring. This is love in the corporate world.  It is not corporatist capitalism but commonweal capitalism- an engagement of the market with the good of all in mind, and not merely the bottom line.   The employees response to this 'love' is a loyalty to the company that is a love response.   This is the place of beatitude, and it is the sort of environment, all other things being equal, that gives a sense of blessing to those involved.
How can an employee avoid using their employer as a means to an end?  It requires faith and hope and love. Christ taught us that He would take care of our material needs as we sought to live for Him first. Living for Him first means that we love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves.  For an employee that means working for the employer not in order to obtain an income primarily but as an expression of love to God and of love for neighbor, who in this case, is the boss.  Because the employee is looking to God for his provision, he is free to love in the workplace by producing an excellent service.  How can an employee love even in a company whose management is using him as a means to an end, a company that is committed to corporatist capitalism?  The Christian employee recognizes that his daily calling is to deny self, and take up his cross, and follow Christ.   To take up the cross of an unpleasant work environment is folly to those who do not know the Lord but to those who know the wisdom of the cross, know that all crosses have been transfigured by Christ's cross, so that they become the very portals to personal transfiguration unto participation in the Divine Nature. 
The two corporate models are diametrically opposed.  Commonweal capitalism is service and sacrifice oriented. The management works to the end of the service of their customers and to the well-being of their employees.  There must be an implicit faith in such a view, that in doing the right thing, that a way will be made in an otherwise hostile world, a world where the other model, corporatist capitalism dominates. The latter's model is the domination of others as a means to an end and the production of a product in order to extract good from the customers.   It inspires management to be willing to sacrifice their employees if need be to achieve maximum profitability, and inspires the employees to do less than their optimum, out of self-interest, as their work is only a means to material security.   It is a terrible model that leaves all dissatisfied.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us the only clear image in contrast to the world's model of living.  The King of King and Lord of Lord's took the form of a servant in order to bring us all the well-being that came from His love for us.  He leads us by the ultimate sacrifice. In contrast the leaders of the world promise us the world, but despoil us, and unless they are saints fall prey to the predatory habits of those in control and devour us for as much as they can get away with.
I suggest that we all come to Jesus and learn of His ways.  Let us make our sandwiches with love.

1 comment: