Staying Humble & Serving Greatly

If you wanna make the world a better place, treat everyone you meet like they’re the coolest person ever. It’s that simple. Sure, we all crave respect, dignity, grace…but the simple truth is that everyone wants to be cool.

I remember the exact moment that I became cool. I was 32 years old, had just completed two years of therapy (as a client) and it dawned on me. After years of yearning for it, striving for it, willing to sacrifice 30 IQ points for it…I realized I was…and had been for quite some time. I had been so busy comparing myself to others for so many years that I missed the obvious truth.

We make invalid comparisons – we contrast how we feel to how others appear to feel based on their external behavior and appearances. This doesn’t work. If we knew what was going on in their heads we’d feel better about ourselves immediately. It’s all in how you look at it – except “it” is you.

I’ve never forgotten where I come from and I still have the scars (literally and figuratively) to prove where I’ve been and how I came up. I am blue collar, scraping by, work my ass off, trailer park trash and there is a part of me that always will be. This chip on my shoulder used to be a boulder…now it’s a reminder and a source of pride.

I’ve been a dishwasher, busboy, short order cook, waiter, delivery driver, and warehouse worker. I’m damned proud of that. I’ve done hard work for a living and…and…and then I got lucky/blessed/believed in and I got to go to college later in life. Now I get to do something I love passionately and I get paid well to do it.

I have what my blue collar friends unfortunately call “women’s hands.” There was a time when I couldn’t close my hands more than halfway from all the calluses on them. I’m not one of those jerks whose proud of rising up above his humble beginnings. I’m a guy whose proud of where he comes from.

I love good food. There are few things I hate more than chain restaurants. Gimme independent chefs, good diners, anything with soul. More importantly, give me a server who makes me glad I came. The best entrees sour when they’re delivered by someone who clearly hates their job – and I judge them for it because I can do their job and do it well.

On the flip side I judge the white collar customer. I believe that a person who is nice to you and mean to a waitress is not a good person. I believe in tipping generously for good service. Tonight I did not get good service at one of Bangor’s best restaurants – I got GREAT service and you can’t buy that – not even at 20%.

Unless you’ve done it and done it very well, you can’t really grasp how much of an art serving is. The best waitrons are perceptive, intuitive, timely, clever, and make you glad you came. They have the ability to make you feel like a million bucks without being insincere. The amazing service I received tonight was all of that and more because she used humor and because she took a genuine interest in what I do and who I am. She has all of those skills with great and genuine humility to boot.

It’s not even her day job. Like so many of us she’s working two jobs to make ends meet. I secretly hope she’s saving for grad school or maybe she’s got a dream. Maybe her tips go in a coffee can and she’s saving for a vacation in the Caribbean where she’ll be waited on. Whatever it is, I hope it’s amazing.
“People will forget what you say. They will forget what you do. They will never, ever forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

The people who inspire me most are the people I serve. To be a healer is to have the honor of serving people who have the guts and determination to seek transformation. To lose sight of that honor is deplorable and unthinkable to me. I am given opportunities everyday to facilitate growth, learning, and healing. I came to my profession with the dream of changing the world and without the willingness to change myself. What makes me most able to serve others today is that I allowed myself to be helped by those who knew more than me. In this manner I discovered the truth about me. On top of being unconditionally worthy of love, acceptance, happiness, freedom, and joy – I also learned that I happen to be pretty damned cool. My gratitude for these lessons is endless.

I am a social worker. My officer manager is a social worker because I can’t do a damned thing without her (and she happens to rock the world in her own pursuits). The waitress who served me this evening inspired me and facilitated growth for me and thus she too is a social worker . This comparison is not lightly made. In the World According to Jim, anyone who seeks to make the world a better place is a social worker. Social Work is not so much a profession as it is an ideal – it is a responsibility and it is a privilege. Today I don’t want to change the world – just myself and if I can help one person, one family, one neighborhood, then I accept the honor of serving.

As I left the restaurant tonight, my amazing server encouraged me but also gently reminded me, “stay humble.” I ask my Higher Power for two things that seem to contradict – to do great things, and to do them with great humility.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.