The petrol station, no matter who you are everybody will find themselves in one at some point in their month. Even if you don’t own car, the humble servo is the place where you can grab a drink, a quick feed and the small conveniences you need then continue with your day.
Starting just at the cusp of COVID lockdowns I found myself, being one of the constant faces in the lives of a few people as they had brief reprieve home to get what they need. For the past year and half, for a few days a week that’s where I’ve been.
My main goal was for it to be a stop gap to pay the bills while I searched to restart a media career that seemingly died before it could even get off the ground.
There were some hopeless times in the opening months, rejections from job appIications mounting, announcements of journalists losing jobs, what was the hope if me getting in if those guys were losing their jobs?
And still the graveyard shifts rolled on, 5am finishes and the occasional 11pm finish I’d show up and greet the night-dwellers of our world.
Slowly, things began to change, in the midst of a game-changing global pandemic I was working, not even all my family and friends could say the same, seeds of gratefulness started taking root.
Even more so it was the people I met and spoke to that widened my perspective. The tradie that came in 10pm every night to buy bait to relax and get away from it all, the wife fuelling up to pick up her husband from hotel quarantine at the strike of midnight, homeless people, the 3am coffee drinkers and eventually the revellers from the pub next door.
What I originally saw as my career prison became the place where God showed me to get over my own pride and learn to live.
Everyone’s got a story
The first hurdle was when I saw my old school friends, teachers and uni lecturers come in. I’d mumble through how this was only a small thing until “I get back to using my degree” and list of the small projects I was freelancing at the time. This isn’t where I was supposed be.
But what changed me was my workmates, this wasn’t a stop-gap for them. They are parents, empty nesters, young adults, migrants doing what they needed to support their families and lives. There work wasn’t what made them, but just allowed them live their lives.
The road plan I had for my life was school, uni, work then progress from there. When that roadmap was disrupted, that deviation meant failure. But in a time where jobs were hard enough to come by, along with the stories of the people that came into the store, that vision was too small.
I didn’t notice at the time but as I was looking down at the job I was working, I was simultaneously doing the same with people I worked with.
We can so easily be caught up in longing for more we what God is doing in us at the same.
In the beginning of the James’ letter to the church of Jerusalem, he informs them to have joy when they face trials, not if. Because when they do face trial, their faith can be built and that Christ in them is being formed at the same time.
Working in a petrol station, was a time I thought I’d always hate. It turned out to be the place where Christ taught me to love others more. Whether it’s the butcher at 2am or the homeless man looking for a sausage roll, everyone’s got a story, are we willing to listen?