God has a way of laying before us exactly what we need if only we have the sense to recognize it for what it is. He did this for me one morning at work during a pre-shift meeting.
Our shift leader informed our team that the opposite day shift was operating shorthanded and needed us to send two operators to help them during the two weeks leading up to a planned month-long shut down. The opposite day shift had a reputation for being a lousy shift to work on due mostly to a few personnel that made working with them a pain in the ass. Said personnel were long gone but the taint they left behind lingered for most of us. No one offered to go during the meeting and it looked as if the least senior members of our group would be forced to make the transition. That’s when God slapped me upside my cranium to wake me up to the opportunity He just laid at my feet.
The Johnny Appleseed Festival is the only festival in Fort Wayne that I enjoy attending. Held on a weekend in mid-September, the festival is chock full of food, arts and crafts, food, exhibitions, food, people dressed in period costumes, food, an Abe Lincoln impersonator, food, and musicians. Did I mention that they also have food? Hundreds of thousands attend the two-day event that rings in the autumn season for Allen County. Crowds aren’t my thing but the great variety of food is worth it.
Johnny Appleseed was being held this particular year on a weekend that I had to work. Anticipating this, I posted that I was looking for coverage for the weekend and did this several weeks in advance. The odds were not good for me as it had become difficult to get people to work for you. The few that were willing to do so were no longer working and very few of us wanted to work more hours than was required of us. With just over a week until the festival it seemed that I was just plain out of luck until God woke me up.
The meeting ended and everyone filtered out to their lines. I lagged behind to speak to our shift and team leaders and offered my help to the opposite shift. One or two necks nearly snapped as they whipped their heads around in surprise. One of them asked if I was feeling okay. I couldn’t fault them. I was one of the most outspoken about how much I hated working that shift, so my sudden change of heart had to come as a shock. I explained to them my desire to attend the festival and kept silent about the chance to get away from our shift leader for a few weeks.
Word of my “sacrifice” spread rather quickly across the production floor. Nobody could believe what I was doing and had fun teasing me about it. A few of them surmised the second and unspoken reason for me volunteering.
My first day on the opposite day shift was an eye opener. Starting from the top, the team had a relatively new shift leader. She was great. A true leader, she worried less about the minutiae of paperwork and concentrated more on working with us to drive results (another term I learned to hate). She was funny, friendly, firm, and fair. She stood up for us when she knew something was not right. I would have followed her through the gates of hell, echoing the stream of… flowery words coming out of her mouth.
The team leads were a bit of a surprise. Unlike several others who took on that role for the apparent ease of it, these guys got in and got their hands dirty with the rest of us. They worked where they were needed most and were still able to support the needs of the rest of us. One of them was a complete surprise. He once worked on my previous shift and had a reputation on the shift for being a bit of a slacker. Seeing him perform his leadership duties quickly changed my opinion of him.
The front line workers were, on average, an older crew. My previous team consisted largely of people ten or more years younger than me. We were what would be considered good work friends but the age difference sometimes made for some awkward conversations due mostly to my refusal to know anything about modern entertainers. My first day with this new team saw me teamed with two people who were both older than me. At the tender age of fifty-one I was the youngest person on the line. That may have been the first time in nearly twenty years of service that I could say that.
The entire team greeted me with open arms and immediately treated me like one of their own. For the first time in ages I was starting to enjoy coming into work again.
One day during my second and possibly last week with the team, our shift leader stopped to have a word with me. She thanked me for coming over to help them and let me know that she felt like I fit right into the team. The thing that struck me most was her sincerity. This didn’t sound like the usual tripe that was driven from training or feedback. She meant it. I thanked her with a genuine gratitude I had not felt there in a very long time. As she started to walk away a crazy idea came to mind.
I called out to her. “Do you think I could stay?”