The Man from Valentine, Nebraska

I’d been in the workplace for better than a decade, and had already worked for some very difficult employers; I’d become one myself, co-running the small vac shop at the south edge of town.  But when I left to work part-time elsewhere, I eventually landed downtown on Broadway in another family-owned business.  What had once been a newsstand and smoke shop had long since evolved into a combination card shop and office supply; it was one of the mainstays in the heart of this college community.  Two generations worked the store, but it was the older one with his accompanying “old school charm” that nurtured us younger, part-time housewives.  In our eyes, Douglas J. was an employee’s employer.

His respect for our well-being and deep regard for our working hours’ needs exceeded that of the other employers I’d known.  His morning greeting, query about our health and home, and his supporting input and positive reinforcement about our work there on the daily shift were all spoken with a consistent, respectful undertone for the listener.  He had hired the clerk but related to each personality and was genuinely concerned about our personal family needs on and off the job. 

No day’s contact with Doug was ever complete without a verbal compliment or sharing of a business aside; the latter, too, evoked his respectful manner.  His giggle was infectious, whether he was responding to one of our dry-humored remarks or laughing at his own (often corny) jokes.

The small courtesies were always there: he told us when he was leaving; he made sure we knew when we could expect his return; he called us over and extended a special courtesy when introducing us to his old friends and long-time customers.  Daily, he made several trips downstairs to check on our cash flow, never wishing to leave us unprepared for the closing hours.  One could remark that his routines were necessary to transact the business day, but Doug’s charm and manner enveloped a higher sense in all of his actions.  Over 30 years have passed, yet his smile and giggles are still very vivid…

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly,

knowing that you also

have a Master in Heaven – Colossians 4:1