Christmas Prep

Around a year ago, Walter and Kathy asked if I would be interested in attending a day-long workshop on management. Considering I was going to get what amounted in my mind to a paid day off to learn, the answer was of course, yes. I won’t bore you with the details, but I wound up learning quite a lot that day. In fact, I use a lot of the lessons learned there almost every day in my responsibilities as retail operations manager. 

One thing I learned, in particular, was the concept of putting things in different buckets. You should always have three buckets. The first is where you put things that are both important and vital. These things need to happen, or whatever it is you’re trying to do won’t get done. For instance, paying the electricity bill for the LittleStore. The second is where you put things that are important, but not vital, such as plugging in the open sign every morning in the LittleStore. Finally, there are things which are neither important nor vital, the things that can be put off for another day.

Now, as he was introducing these concepts to us, the instructor would ask the class for examples. I wasn’t sure about an example for items that were both important and vital, but when he asked about an example for that second bucket, important but not vital I was quite sure. You see, I had been informed earlier in the month that I had a drop-dead date, every Christmas decoration we own had to be displayed in the LittleStore by the first Saturday in October. Tentatively, shyly, I raised my hand thinking that it sounded ridiculous, but that it also fit the bill. “Who cares about Christmas decorations in October,” I thought, even as my hand went into the air.

I hadn’t said anything all class, so the instructor called on me as soon as he saw my hand raised. I answered and the instructor slapped his hands together loudly. “That’s one of the better examples of the second bucket,” He said with a laugh. Something that needed to be done, but wasn’t the end of the world. 

On Saturday, October 3rd, I put all the Christmas decorations up again. Christmas lights, our nativity scene, Christmas music playing, and boxes of Christmas items for the customers in the store to peruse. The idea doesn’t seem as ridiculous as it once did. Why shouldn’t I be thinking about Christmas in October? Hopefully, I never get as bad as Walter and Kathy, who seem to think of Christmas constantly. 

I’ve even started thinking about putting those decorations in a different bucket, maybe they belong in bucket number one after all (except the Christmas music).

Store Reopening

Like many of us, I have recently gone through some of the strangest times in my life. I am of course referring to my time spent as the Retail Operations Manager for the Urban Missionaries. Just kidding – I am talking about my whole life turned upside down during the pandemic. 

In the last issue of Streetlights, Walter gave you all an update on how we were weathering the storm, and what our future plans were. I am very pleased to report that we weathered the storm just fine, and Walter and Kathy’s plans apparently worked, or else I wouldn’t be typing this right now.

The Urban Missionaries are indeed back in business, just as the introductory article for this issue states. All our programs are running full steam and a new issue of Streetlights is out the door and in your hands. The road to get here has been rocky though. We had to shut down the whole of 242 Canterbury Street, deep clean and prepare, and then re-open and welcome our neighbors and donors back in. 

It was tough to first shutter the whole store when the pandemic was really lifting off. Some of you know me, and know that this is my first “real” job out of college. It’s a big responsibility to be trusted with the Urban Missionaries’ retail operations. Never having been responsible for something so intricate before, it was hard to let it all go, and not know if I would ever be able to reopen it again. 

As Walter told you in the last issue, he and Kathy managed to keep some of our programs running, and kept myself and all of the rest of the staff on the payroll. It is a testament to the power of this ministry to enact change in its community that we kept the lifeline of food open to people desperately in need, while keeping the lifeline of employment open to the people who work hard every day making it all a reality.

Well, eventually, I got the good news. We were going to reopen! Back to normal operations! I was terribly excited to be going back to my normal work routine. However, I had seen the inside of stores on runs to pick up toilet paper and other essentials. I knew I had some work to do.

Did you ever wonder how all those arrows and stickers on the floor of your local supermarket get there? I do! I was somewhat disappointed to learn that it was not magic, and I would have to make it all happen. With everyone’s help, we put together a floor plan, made the appropriate signage, and we even put all the little one-way arrows down. I also got to put into practice some atrophied wood working skills developed during my time at Worcester Technical High School to make a sneeze shield for the front counter. Finally, it was time to put it all to the test and re-open.

That brings us to the present day. The store is open, people are receiving help, and all the staff are back to normal work. We couldn’t be happier, and we are incredibly thankful for the community behind us, all of you, for your tireless support and friendship to this ministry. We’re going to keep going, and keep serving, and hope you will all join us for many years to come.