Over the past six months of being a bartender at Bricks, I’ve walked away with many powerful lessons. The most impactful lesson, however, that has brought deeper insights into my classroom and my faith has been around the concept of judgement.
I’m an odd person to be a bartender…you see I enjoy an occasional drink, but I’ve always seen alcohol as just ‘meh’ *shoulder shrug*. So, when I took the job I had a steep learning curve on all the fancy mixed drinks, classics, etc. I’ll be honest I faced a lot of resistance at first in becoming a bartender.
I won’t forget the frantic call my Mom made pleading about finding me a different summer job, “The bar will destroy your soul. It’s a dark place, nothing good will be found there.” I had to continue reassuring my mom that I was a fully competent adult and not her little boy anymore (yeah right!).
My concerned Mother though wasn’t the only person to express reservations. I had some ask:
“Aren’t you a teacher? Aren’t you afraid of the message you are sending your students?”
“Your reputation will take a deep hit from working there…aren’t you a Christian?”
Annelle was at least measuredly supportive, “Anthony I think this will be a great job for you, maybe you’ll get all the talking out of you before you get home…just don’t let my dad know you’re bartending.”
I had to laugh at the shade being thrown my way, so I kept as low a profile yet, still got my cover blown and at all places during a school board meeting…just can’t win right? 😉
What I have been discovering during my time at Bricks is that I am among company who know full-well what it feels like being on the receiving end of judgement. I’ve heard countless stories from men and women who’ve just struggled, struggled with acceptance from others and are struggling to accept themselves. I’m counting it one of my greatest joys to bless and serve judgement-free with unrestricted love for those who come through our door; especially those who come having felt little love or acceptance most of their lives.
One young man stands out especially strongly for me. He came into the bar in a bad state. He wasn’t in more than 30 seconds and he was hurling insults, barking his whiskey request, and cursing the invention of ranch. I didn’t recognize him and fortunately, there was only my coworker at the bar as it was later in the evening. I’d be lying if I said I was not nervous. At this point I started praying in my head about what I needed to say because at first I didn’t know how to respond. So, I shared the menu with him, tried cracking a few jokes that obviously fell flat, and I was awkwardly trying to make small talk by asking him questions related to his line of work.
He was aggressively evasive and finally shouted, “Are you some undercover cop? Because you sure hell ask a lot of questions that are not any of your business!” I did possibly the worst thing at the time, I literally busted up laughing, the notion I was an undercover cop was comical, but as I reflect that was costume dress up night for Halloween and I was dressed as Robin…sometimes you just can’t make this up…I cannot imagine what kind of place this guy thought he walked into.
It was then I got that overwhelming sense I was supposed to share about Jesus Christ with this man…I was thinking…now?? He just accused me of being an undercover cop, I guess it can’t get worst. There standing in my Robin costume, cleaning the bar I shared briefly my relationship with the Lord. At first it went over like a lead balloon. With clenched fists he asked, “Tell me this and you better be *expletive* honest. On a scale of one to ten; one being you are a saint and have done nothing wrong or ten you killed someone, where do you put yourself.”
At this point it spilled out, “Ten plus,” I responded. Pounding on the bar the young man shouted, “You’ve never killed anyone!!”
I shrugged and replied quickly, stumbling over my words, “You’re right not in the physical sense, I guess, but my words have killed others’ spirits, I’ve let others down when they desperately needed me there. I’ve rejected and judged others when all they needed was someone to listen and understand.”
My young friend was not impressed, “I’ve done so much worse, I’m going to jump this bar and force you to change your answer. CHANGE your *expletive* answer!!” at this point he was clearly furious, “You aren’t EVEN a *expletive* two!” Then his salad order was ready in the back and I excused myself to grab it for him. He was mumbling loudly under his breath as I left. I too was mumbling silent, incoherent prayers that he wasn’t going to be behind the bar when I got back!
When I returned he was in the restroom, the man who came out was different from the man who went in. He sat down mellowly eating his salad and he finally asked what I did, I shared I was an Agriculture instructor and a little bit about what I did. It was then he finally began to open up genuinely. He shared that some of his best life experiences were in the ag shop with his ag teacher in high school. We then really hit it off when we made the connection that I knew his former instructor who had passed away. He choked up a little at this point about his regret in not sharing his appreciation for him before he passed away, “You remind me so much of him, I felt welcomed there, I felt like I was contributing there.”
That statement hit a deep chord in me when I replied, “It would have been a pleasure having you as a student, I think we would have done a lot of damage,” I said with a wink as I could feel my eyes begin to well up, “I know your instructor was honored in having you as a student.” That evening the young man left with a smile that stretched across his face, both I and my coworker witnessed over the span of an hour the power of love, unrestricted and judgement-free love.
Judgement meets at the intersection of pride and insecurity. Choosing to love without judgement requires submission and courage. When we love without judgement we are surrendering our prideful, preconceived notions of how we feel others should be and what we feel they need. When we love without judgement we discover the courage of living unashamed because so much of judgement is wrapped in an insecure view of our own failings and the failings of those around us.
As a classroom educator, much like a bartender, I do not get to choose the students who walk through my door. Yet, it is completely under my control in how I interact and open my heart towards them.
Our words matter, opening our hearts towards love and compassion matters!
When we release our pride, surrendering judgment of our students, learning grows!
When we release insecurity, courageously being present for our students, impact grows!
Impact and lasting change happens in the grind, nowhere else, the daily drip…drip of showing up, choosing love, being hope, telling others they matter; there is a song that is my jam to send this home by Natalie Grant entitled, Be One. You can listen below:
It’s time to get our hands dirty
Be love there’s a whole lot of hurting
Calling all hearts
Calling all hands
Calling all feet to take a stand
Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come
When we can be one
Thank you to all those who choose to be a miracle for those hurting and in need of love/compassion; we are all called to be that for one another! Let’s be open to the leading of Christ through our hearts/minds as we interact with those around us! Have a blessed rest of your Thanksgiving holiday!
Take care my friends and thanks as always for reading!!