Hurricanes. Ugh. They spoil perfectly good summers and falls along the Gulf and eastern coastlines of the US. I hate them almost as much as I despise tornadoes for the fact that they scatter possessions all over and beyond retrieval.
When I first moved into hurricane territory—and especially as the first storm headed our way, I was…uh, “inspired” to get my stuff better organized and pared down for easier rescue from nature. I decided to move all my paper certificates from their bulky presentation folders into sheet protectors.
The first certificate I pulled out took me back 25 years. Remembering why I received this Navy Letter of Appreciation, I realized that it illustrates a lesson I’ve been trying to learn well. That lesson? Just do the job.
This Letter of Appreciation from the base Captain might make you think I had done some great heroics as a gate guard, helping my partner catch a criminal. The truth is that I was totally unaware of what my partner was doing…because I was so pre-occupied with my job of confirming authorized entry! While he was detaining, I simply took care of both lanes and kept traffic flowing smoothly.
So, I was totally surprised when I was called forward to receive this award! They had to refresh my memory and point out how I had contributed to this noteworthy action. I had just been doing my job.
I found another yellowed letter in this stack of certificates, a Letter of Commendation from the Rear Admiral of the Air Wing on the base. This, too, was an unexpected reward for diligent efforts to simply do my job!
By this time, I was working in my chosen enlisted job. I think my supervisors figured out that I wasn’t very good at being an electrician but that I was real good with paperwork details. So, they gave me the duty of work-center training petty officer. It was challenging to make sure that all 40 sailors—spread out over 3 shifts—got all their required training, but I did it and got it properly recorded. The Admiral’s inspecting team found no discrepancies. I didn’t know that they handed out Letters of Commendations (which, by the way, add points toward promotion) for what I saw as simply doing my job, but I got one.
Thinking of the Admiral made me think of another reward I received during those years, but there’s no paper for this one. All I have is the memory of what the previous Admiral’s wife told me just before he retired.
This happened when I was still working as a gate guard. Unlike some of my partners, I never could recognize the vehicles of the base’s “top brass.” So even if I was tempted, I was never able to “kiss up.” I just treated everyone the same—respectful and by the rules. So, when this elderly lady pulled over after I cleared her to get on base, I figured she needed directions to the commissary (a typical request from retirees).
I was not prepared for the great honor she was about to bestow. Even after 25 years, I still remember what she said.
After making me aware that she was the Admiral’s wife, she said, “I think you ought to know what he said about you the other day, even though he won’t tell you as he’s rather shy about such things.” She continued, “I noticed that he would change lanes to get to where you were working, and I asked him why—especially when it sometimes meant we had to wait longer to get through the gate. He replied that he wanted to be processed through the gate by [me] ‘because she always seems to be enjoying her job.’”
Tears welled up in my eyes (just like they’re doing now). The highest ranking official on the base wanted to wait for me, a lowly undesignated E-3? An Admiral, an O-7, would go to such great lengths to be the recipient of my diligent—even if somewhat slower—execution of my job? And he thinks I enjoy these 12-hour shifts on my feet, subject to the whims of the weather in an unbreathable uniform?!
The only explanation I have for the joy he saw is the joy of the Lord–that happiness we can have even in the worst jobs and situations.
I do not believe there is any certificate or even any medal they could give me that would honor me as much as this Admiral did.
As I found a new place for these documents, I realized they were teaching me a lesson I need to learn and remember in ministry. “Just like you did in those early Navy years, just do the job, Raylene,” they say. “Don’t expect rewards. Do what God has called you to do, regardless of title or pay (or lack thereof). Find the joy in what you’re doing (which is easy when you’re doing what He designed for you). And just do your best. God will take care of rewarding you, and you’d be surprised at what He rewards and how He does it. And you know there’s no greater reward than hearing Him say, ‘Well done!’”
Thanks for reading!
Discussion Stimulator: What intangible but better reward has God already given you in this life?