A few years ago, my girlfriend, Elaine, and I were visiting my family in North Carolina and we went to an old-fashioned summer state fair. We were in a long line to get a corndog—and that’s when we noticed the commotion in the food truck. The person in charge of cooking the corndogs had gotten burned pretty badly. Complicating matters? The line wasn’t moving and was only getting longer. As everyone looked at each other, Elaine (a registered nurse) ran into the truck to take a look at the burn and help treat it. I went with her, but instead of gauze and ice, I grabbed an apron, washed my hands, and asked them to teach me how to cook the corndogs so we could keep the line moving (and their profits coming).
I don’t know how good (or bad) my corndogs were—and I apologized to the customers. But, at least everyone received a corndog until the company could get a replacement employee in the truck. Once that happened, Elaine and I were off to enjoy the fair. Throughout the rest of the day, we kept getting stopped by people who were in that corndog line telling us how amazed they were that we did what we did. I maintained that we did what we had to do. Elaine, as a nurse, is committed to helping people who are hurt—that is part of the nursing discipline she studied. I, on the other hand, am committed to helping; service is my chosen discipline.
‘Service as a discipline’ is an interesting concept. How does service become a field of study, a pattern of behavior? I think it is a combination of an innate ability to experience compassion and a series of reinforcements throughout life. As children, we want to help. This behavior is reinforced (or not) by our parents, which makes us want to repeat (or not) the helpful action. As we grow into adults, we need to find other layers of value for this service orientation. We need to find an employer that encourages and values service—and rewards it with professional benefits. Through these consistent reinforcements, service becomes second nature, a verified discipline that gets practiced over and over again.
- Do you think service is a discipline?
- Do you think people are born as service-oriented individuals or is this trait more of a learned behavior?
- Is there a company that you do business with that almost certainly employs people who practice service as a discipline?
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