Fast-Food and the Dignity of the Human Person
This past December I ended up quitting my part-time job at Subway after two and a half years of working there. During my time there I would reflect on what my motivation was while working in the fast-food industry. Understandably, as a student, I mostly appreciated making an income. I never expected that I would learn such foundational and spiritual lessons by merely making sandwiches for hours on end.
I encountered and served many different people during each shift. There were customers that had become my regulars, and by the end I was greeting them like old friends instead of customers. With a few of them it got to the point where I could even ask about their family and they’d ask about my studies in pre-nursing. Sometimes I could even remember exactly what sandwich they wanted without them asking. However, most customers I had never seen before. Some people were just out and about and stopped by to pick up lunch. There were families who came in and would go through the long process of figuring out what each child and parent wanted. Some customers were young couples out on a date, coming by to pick up a bite. There were other individuals who seemed to be from off the streets and the sandwich I made for them might have been the only food they would have all day. Some customers were in great, friendly moods, while others seemed down and grumpy.
Why am I reflecting on my customers with so much detail? As I served this diverse group of people, I started to rediscover that each and every person has a story. Each person has an experience and an inner battle that no one else is aware of. Every individual has already experienced some sort of pain and joy in their day. But most importantly, each person is a beloved child of God. This may sound quite cliché or fairy-tale-like, but it is simply true and is a key to our Christian faith.
I once heard someone say that the very first thing we should think when we see any person is that they are a precious son or daughter of God. I so often fail at this. I am quick to make judgments before viewing others through the eyes of Christ. However, as I was serving people, I started to try and view each person with this mindset, and it brought so much life into my job. For the one to two minutes that I had with each customer, I was literally encountering a precious child of God. This person was designed by the same God that I love, the God who longs for them to know him and his outrageous amount of love for them. What a gift it was to be able to be part of that person’s day, even if all I could share with them was a warm smile or a brief conversation to help them know that they matter and are loved. This stirring up in me of God’s love for them drew me out of myself in a way that refreshed my own soul. Please understand that there were many days where I did not serve in this mindset and was very self-focused and consumed by my own thoughts. But when I did serve in this way, I felt so much more fulfilled.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves (cf. chapter two).” - CCC 1702
How beautiful it is that we are all called to participate in this divine image, and when we are in communion with each other that divine image shines forth. In a world that so frequently dismisses the dignity and value of the human person, we are called to rediscover this gift and love each other through the grace of God.
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born from God, and everyone who loves the parent also loves the child." -1 John 5:1 (ISV)