When I was about sixteen Niles Eikenberry hired me to work in his grocery store. My job was the clean the meat department every night. It was important that I did my job well. If the meat department was not perfectly clean people could become very sick. It was hard work back there and lonely. I worked back all night every night. It was monotonous work and there was no one to talk to. I didn’t do well. I should have but I just didn’t.
Mr. Eikenberry was a fine, patient man. He showed me what he expected and what I needed to do to compete the job. Still after a few weeks they came to me to tell me that things were not working out. I was just not getting the meat department clean enough.
He would have been justified in firing me but he didn’t. He moved me to the front of the store to carry out groceries. It was a wonderful fit for me. With people to serve I had boundless energy and enthusiasm for my job. They were very happy with my performance, gave regular raises and hired me back again between college terms.
I supervise young many young people now and sometimes I think of Mr. Eikenberry. I admire him for his wisdom in seeing my usefulness to his company in a different role. I am grateful that he arranged things so I could leave with a success on my record instead of the scar of failure.
That was almost thirty years ago now. I had not spoken to Mr. Eikenberry since I left Greenville for college in the fall of 1977. A few weeks ago I found his number and called him. I reminded him of what he had done for me and thanked him for his kindness to me when I was just finding my way out in the world.
We all have our weaknesses and our strengths. We all have special aptitudes given to us by God when he custom-made each of us. According to Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4 we each have a spiritual gift. In the area where we are gifted we are specially effective and we find maximum satisfaction. We all have a unique perspective on life and placement in our world. We are each “just right” for some job. We are especially blessed if God puts people like Niles Eikenberry in our path to help us find it.
Riverfront Character Inn
September 14, 2005