The things you have learned
and received and heard and seen in me,
practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:9
“Put your other hand here,” she told him.
She was the manager, and he was busing tables.
As he put one hand on the edge of the tray of dishes and glasses, he put his other hand underneath the tray.
“Here in the middle?” he asked her as he crouched down. Something in his movements caught my attention.
“Exactly!” she replied and grinned at him.
He stood up. Shoulders back, he stood even straighter and announced, “I practiced at home even!”
And I realized what seemed familiar about him: he was an adult with special needs.
She told him that practicing at home was surprising and good, and showed him again how to pick up the tray so the weight stayed centered. He did precisely what she’d done,
Talking with her and another employee a bit later, I learned that this was his first day working “front of house” rather than in the kitchen. He’d tilted the tray while opening the kitchen door earlier that shift, and the glasses and cups slid off.
But not this time. He navigated the tables and chairs and kitchen door like a seasoned veteran.
He cleared three more tables without any problems.
Then he began to set the tables. I’ve never seen anyone so precise with the placement of salt and pepper shakers; he’d put them on the table, stand back for an appraisal, move in to make a minute adjustment and again evaluate. When everything looked just right, he nodded at the table and again stood straighter. Then on to the next table.
The manager was an excellent job coach. She was encouraging. She showed him, not just told him, how to do what needed to be done.
And he carefully followed her instructions and example.
After all, he’d already “practiced at home even!”
Two lessons here:
1. You and I can learn a lot from both of them, but I’m not sure which one taught me more.
2. What would someone learn today by copying our words and actions?