Yesterday I went to see Mike, the owner of a small appliance repair shop. The shop is located in a non-descript office strip, off any main road. You have to look carefully to find Mike's shop or you'll miss it. Inside the storefront, there is a small counter in the entry room. There are some toasters on the wall that look ancient, dusty packages of electric razor blades, opened and unopened packages of batteries. A child's scooter is parked near the door, marked "New, $17.95 or Best Offer," and an aging (though undoubtedly once futuristic) vacuum cleaner is propped against the wall, "$45, or Best Offer." Behind the counter I can see through to a small room stacked with open box after open box of parts, presumably triage for small appliances, those modern conveniences we take for granted. For Mike, they are lifeblood, how he makes a living.
"Hey. I need a new battery for this thing," I say, handing him my razor.
"What's the last time you replaced it?"
"How about never? I think I've had it nine years.
"You got your money's worth, huh?
"Yeah." Sorry about how dirty it is."
"No problem. This is clean compared to some I've seen."
And how many thousands of electric razors has he seen? Mike looks to be around 40, a bit overweight, a rounded face framed by thin black hair. Not hip. Not cool. Just a guy. He takes my razor back in the back, and I hear an older voice from someone I can't see.
"Mike, put that back where you got it from. You always leave things lying around."
"I'll get it. Don't worry about it."
I note the parental tone, and I realize that Mike has likely been here a long time, apprenticed to a father who will pass the small appliance repair business on to his son. I realize there can't be a lot of money in the business, with the volume light and the transactions small. Besides, so many people simply throw away their razor or toaster before trying to have it fixed. Why bother, they say? And yet somehow Mike and his Dad have kept at it, stewards of the small.
Life is filled with the stories of people like Mike, dutifully working at unnoticed jobs doing things most people care little about. He fixes things. Others build things. Even more clean streets, parks, houses, and office buildings. Someone, for example, largely unnoticed, regularly sweeps the stairs we rarely use in my office building, wipes down the handrails, polishes door moldings, empties trash, and cleans restrooms. They are little people doing little jobs, some would say, and yet they have a dignity we would do well to note.
When Scripture says man is made in God's image, every human life was invested with worth. Some people, like Mike, are just doing a job, tilling and keeping creation, keeping things working, taking care of what's here. But they are no less important because of their "small" job.
A story is told of how Francis and Edith Schaeffer were once late for the National Prayer Breakfast, where Francis was to speak, because Edith stopped to talk at length with the maid cleaning their room. In so doing they lived out what Francis Schaeffer had often preached, that there were "no little people." The President and other VIPs at the breakfast could wait.
I don't really know Mike, but I suspect he has his own dreams, his own disappointments, and a life outside the repair shop. He gets up every morning and goes to work. He's hit middle age and wonders if there's more, wakes up at night and thinks about high school and friends he no longer sees, wishes he had a little more hair. He's just an ordinary guy, like me, waiting for something more.