Tutoring. A weekly event in which no one can foresee what may happen.  Every coach, I’m sure, spends a minimum 15 minutes self-absorbed in a personal pep talk.  There is the deep breathing, a must when your directions are utterly ignored by the student; the facial relaxation, as the muscles strain, resisting the desire to contort into the ferocious face of a wild beast ready to assert her alpha female position over a disrespectful and subversive munchkin; and the prayers because God alone knows what will save us from the grandiose attitudes flailing fits of tearful breakdown, and mind games the children have premeditated.

This night was different.  In contrast to the usual 3-5 pubescent females I coach, I had only one: miss Deja.  This left time for one-on-one attention and a bit of free time as she was working with her Math and Reading tutors.  The math room, our third station that evening, roomed three eager tutors.  Deja plopped down next to a mid-sized man with a puffy grey jacket and combover.  Keeping my distance from math material, I sat at an open desk.

“What’s your day job?” Came a voice from ten feet away.  I looked up from the children’s book I was reading to see the tutor’s uneven smile beaming as if he had just won the spelling bee.  His appearance each week is rather disheveled.  Today: a button missing from the center of his button-up shirt, exposing a thin streak of white undershirt, rumpled hair, and glasses slightly askew.  Still, a friendly face anticipating the answer.  

We had this conversation about three months ago, but I cannot claim innocence in the crime of conversation repetition, so I answered.
We had this conversation about three months ago, but I cannot claim innocence in the crime of conversation repetition, so I answered.
“I’m a nurse at Barnes.”
“Ya know, I had 19 credits left on my nursing degree but I had to stop because of gender discrimination,” he stopped short and then held his smile again.
“O really.”  I remembered every detail from the previous twenty minute conversation.  “Now men are almost preferred because they are the minority.”  Sustained smile.  Not even a blink.  I moved over to his desk.
“How about you?  What’s your day job”
“Well, I’m what they call semi-retired.  I work at the stadium and dome.”
“You help people find their seats?”  We were in new territory.  He leaned forward, raising a pair of bushy eyebrows.
“No, I make the sales like the nachos.  Regular nachos, nacho grande, and nacho supreme.  They are our top sellers.  You know the nacho supreme is made with pulled pork.  And then they add barbecue sauce on top, then jalapeños, and cheese.  You wouldn’t believe how many we sell.  We also sell Coke, beer, bottled water, and Cracker Jacks.”
“How about hot dogs?”
“No. They mostly get sold on the first floor and the one beneath ours.  I have to count out the big bills at specific times like the 20s, 50s, and 100s.  I make sure there is $700 ready for the start of the next game.  You have to make sure you aren’t getting a counterfeit.”  He then proceeded to tell me with all the precision of a member of the Federal Reserve, all the ways one checks for a counterfeit bill.  

Although I excused myself shortly after to take Deja to her Enrichment class, this tutor and his joyful pride settled over me.  It did not matter that by most people’s standards, the task was simple.  God has different standards.  1 Samuel 16:6 says, “Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.”  We all deserve a chance to express satisfaction in our hard work.  If you are the master of the nacho supreme, share that dignity.  Our gifts look different and instead of looking down on others as less efficient/ less important, we must celebrate with them.  But in order to celebrate, one must listen.  So spend more time lifting each other up, slowing down, and listening.  And do not forget to ask for patience.

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