Archived: Weekly Message from T. J.

Getting In Line

I turn off the ringing alarm. I pack up my documents. I get in my car and head down. I want to arrive early so that I can beat the line. Surely, there can’t be too much of a line before they open, right? And if I get there early it’ll go quickly. And as I turn into the parking lot, I see it: the line…to get in line. And I wonder, “Is it even worth it?”

See, you never really feel a part of a new place where you’ve moved until you go to your friendly neighborhood Department of Motor Vehicles. I remember planning my trip to the DMV. When I was searching for the address on my phone, I saw that the DMV office I was visiting had actually been rated on Google. And better yet, people had taken the time to write reviews their experience there, like it was a local restaurant.

Most of the reviews were the same, seeming to focus a lot on the visit taking three hours and there being no place to sit, with many mentioning the confusion of going from line to line and not having the right documents. And then I noticed one review that was special. It was in all caps: “IT’S A GOVERNMENT OFFICE OF COURSE THIS PLACE IS GOING TO BE PACKED AND HAVE HORRIBLE ‘CUSTOMER SERVICE’ IF THAT’S EVEN WHAT YOU WANT TO CALL IT….” This prophet of the proletariat, this Buddha of the bedraggled, in her all-caps yelling, was trying to wake people up to the reality of expectations, and her review just made all the others seem so, so silly.

See, there are two primary kinds of lines in the world. Lines for things people want (concert tickets, iPhones, etc.) and lines for things people need (licenses, the bathroom, etc.). What this reviewer was letting people in on is that a place that has something people need doesn’t need to focus too much on how the people get it or how happy they are to do so if they don’t want to. Places that have things people merely want tend to have departments with nice words like “customer service,” or even “customer care,” or better yet “concierge service.”

And I began to wonder about a place that offers what people both deeply want and desperately need, a place that I feel both compelled to visit and grateful that I visited all at once. I imagined a review that read: “IT’S A CHURCH OF COURSE THIS PLACE IS GOING TO BE PACKED AND CHANGE YOUR LIFE.” And I felt a rush of gratitude for the place we share, our community of believing (and not believing), a place where I’d gladly rise early, get my things together, and stand on any line to get what I know I need to survive: connection. I would even stand on a line…to get on a line…to get what I want in this world: companions in the work of changing the world. And no matter how long the line is, I would know, “Yes, it’s worth it.”

7 responses to “Archived: Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. Love this! And, perhaps at risk of spreading ourselves too thin, we could even take on the task of changing those non-welcoming, non-caring, dehumanizing spaces and places into places that are welcoming, that exhibit care and love toward those “standing in line.”

  2. Suzette, “Zootopia” is one of my favorite films! And, yes, the sloth scene at the DMV is so hilarious! Thank you for including that link!

    1. Good question, David. One heart, one relationship, one group, one town, one city, one nation, one world at a time.

  3. I need to stand in “the line” for a dog license. I was dreading it for all the mentioned reasons. This time I will remember that little dog “”changed my life” (and many others) and she is “worth it.” Mahalo for making my life easier.

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