January 26, 2010

The Face of Humility

Yesterday, I drove a 27-foot truck to Bowling Green, KY for work and found out what humility looks like. I started working for a document destruction company this summer called Knight Horst Shredding. I drive a truck and shred paper. We're based out of Nashville but sometimes we do runs to cities within a few hours of us. So I was given the KY route yesterday and I met a guy who showed me humility.

I was standing outside of the GM plant in Bowling Green loading and unloading some trash cans of full and empty paper into the truck with one of the maintenence workers for the plant. I forgot his name. His job was to take care of trash and to help maintain the physical structure of the building. I could tell that he was in his late thirties and he didn't have a hint of presumption in him. He was a really happy, too--he told me that GM was the best company he had ever worked for. They bought him $180 boots every year, and when some of the "higher-ups" came to town, his boss invited him to get beers, too, not just his supervisors.

"When you have something to say, they do it," he said. "If you've got a good idea or need tools, they'll support you... they listen," he summarized. As we were talking and un/loading, he asked me if I liked my job.

I told him, "No, it's just a job for me right now." It has been just a job for me over the last six months. Then, I told him something good about the job: "But it's taught me humility."

And his response caught me off guard completely: "How's that?"

My job is basically a glorified trashman, I was thinking. I remember reading that MLKJ said even if you're a street-sweeper, be the best street-sweeper you can be. Paper-shredding became my street-sweeping this summer, and I told the GM worker that it had taught me humility.

By the way he asked the question, I realized in that moment that I had just said something about his job too--that it was subpar and benneth me. My words hit me in the face through his piercing question. I could tell that he understood what I had said, but he didn't even know what I meant when I said that this job had taught me humility.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I read part of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. I say "part" because I had to stop at his chapter called "The Great Sin" in reference to pride. I had to read it a few times. It haunted me that I could have every virtue and still have the greatest sin, pride. So I resolved to define and understand pride so I could avoid it like the plague. I was never satisfied with any effable definition; instead, I decided that I could only recognize it in myself and others, not define it.

That day I saw the opposite of pride in the GM worker who was helping me unload trash cans from the truck. I have been humbled but I'm not humble yet. He was humble.

No comments: