Friday, February 6, 2015

the economy of volunteerism

After the remodel one year ago

This July, Surfers Coffee Bar celebrates four years of service.  I am grateful that we've at least passed the one- and two-year marks, but until we climb over five years, I'm still holding my breath.  Studies have shown that many restaurants tank in their first two years, but those who survive five years usually make it to ten.  But I feel like SCB needs extra credit, and should take each year like "dog years," because we're not an average business.  We are wholly run by volunteers.  Vo.lun.teers.  Un-paid volunteers.

Humanity runs on economy - doing and earning and giving and receiving.  When studies talked about restaurants, they were talking about businesses that pay their workers with resources that practically and tangibly assist and complement their living condition.  So to have a staff of unpaid volunteers, I am asking them to work equally hard as they would in a paid position, offering only the reward of goodness in their hearts and a cup of coffee in their bloodstream.

And it is SO HARD.

First of all, it's hard because Management basically means quality control, and when the bulk of my job is quality control, that means it's laden with confrontation, and correction, and feedback, and education.  It isn't particularly a field I would naturally gravitate towards.  I'm an introvert.  I'm an independent.  I wish other people were independent.

But truthfully, that sentiment is probably why I ended up in management, I can't stand to watch people give their bare minimum and put on their "worker bee" vest without question.  I expect independence and free thinking.  I want them to put wheels and motors on their dreams, and set goals to make them happen, instead of being some unattainable idea they daydream about while stamping cups.  I want them to have the character and work ethic that will sustain their futures.  It's a push and pull - I both like and dislike the confrontation, because it then becomes my God-given responsibility to call out the greatness within each individual staff member, while calling out their rough edges.

Sounds over-the-top for cafe management's job description.  But that is my reality, especially with volunteers.  It's hard to convince them that every little thing they do is meaningful, from doing the dishes, to mopping the floor, to gingerly sweeping up dead roaches that died on its way indoors.  When my workers sign up to work for the non-profit humanitarian organization that mothers the cafe, they imagine the outreaches and the footstools to international welfare; they imagine the tangible joy of giving to people in need.  So to serve the demographic that is not in dire need of clothing or shelter or food, the able middle class, the humanitarian reward is not so obvious.

And when the reward is not obvious, the economy begins to collapse.

How do I convince my staff that their hours are making a difference?
I can be grateful that many of my staff walk in the same faith, and I am also grateful that the principles of Heaven are also understandable to those who haven't chosen this faith-- because it is by faith we receive this reward.  I believe those who have chosen to embrace the nature of our presence in the coffee bar have a sweeter understanding of what it means to serve selflessly, that the reward is not immediately gratifying, or even guaranteed to be tangible, but it is promised.

Of course, I am not trying to make a statement of "how do I make them listen," as much as I am also convincing my own heart that my management makes a difference.  As much as they get discouraged that they have one more closing shift on a slow Saturday night, I get discouraged that I'm not making this place more meaningful for them.  And I want my staff to feel like they have purpose, that their presence is individually meaningful.

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 

Ephesians 6.5-8

This charge, similar to that in Colossians and 1 Timothy, is what I want for my staff.  I want them to feel the freedom in choosing to serve in this "hard economy" of volunteerism.  I want them to feel the gratitude that they get to be in the customer service business.  I want them to feel the approval and affirmation of God's heart.  And I want this for me too.  I am a volunteer too.  I want that encouragement from the Lord that reminds me that I am making a difference, however deep of an impact.  I want to be reminded that I have purpose, and my presence is meaningful.  I want to steward my staff well, I want to call out the greatness in them.  I want more patience, and grace, and deep love to do so.

Joy is the reward.  I enjoy my staff.  I love their quirky selves.  And as baristas, their personable nature is indispensable.  They are innately social, or at least curious about humanity, which makes them both amusing to converse with, and, endearingly, good listeners.  Their individual personalities range from sanguine to phlegmatic, and we all have different definitions of "common sense."  They make me laugh, and they stress me out, and I cannot express how grateful I am for them.

Whether they gain self-discipline, or understanding, or skills for the workforce, or the sense of ohana, I want them to be sure of their reward.  I don't want them to look back at the 3 months to two years they've committed and regret the work time spent (heaven forbid, "wasted").  I want them to look at this time and be thankful for the chance to learn, to grow, and to find joy in serving - all while brewing a darn good cup of coffee.


currently watching: The Kennedy's
currently listening: podcasts from Mosaic Church

No comments :

Post a Comment