Sign of the Times

We’ve all see the “Now Hiring” signs, open interviews and sign on bonuses being offered. I hear people say “Every place is hiring right now.” Are they actually hiring or are they trying to hire? For businesses to actually hire people have to come in and apply that actually want to work.

The Burger King sign shown here was up for about six hours in Lincoln, Nebraska. Before you complain about work ethic, lazy kids or minimum wage laws let’s add some context. A manager put in her two weeks notice and about eight members of her crew did the same. At the end of that two weeks nothing had changed in the store and that’s when this sign was lettered up at about 6 o’clock one morning. The store has been short staffed for some time and the employees had been working 50 and 60 hours per week to keep it open. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the air conditioning going out in the kitchen. That’s when they had enough. As the marquee sign went viral on social media, the store began getting calls from higher and higher levels of upper management. By lunchtime it was changed to read “Now Hiring, Flexible Hours.” Time will tell.

I recently heard a lawyer say that people are just unwilling to work in fast food anymore. I don’t think that’s it. There is a truck driver shortage in this country and those guys start at $50,000/year. As the spread of Covid-19 led to a declaration of pandemic in the spring of 2020, we embarked on a never before attempted experiment. The economy had crashed before but never in American history had we tried to purposefully shut it down with the expectation of being able to restart it again. The goal was to isolate, to quarantine all non-essential workers and stop the spread of the virus. It’s easy to look back, hindsight being 2020, and make statements about what was right or wrong. The thinking at the time was that by shutting down everything non-essential we could stop the spread of the virus and give the medical community time to deal with the surge that was expected. Despite numerous rounds of stimulus payments made directly to Americans, restarting the economy has proved more of a challenge that anticipated. Many feel that the federal extension made to state unemployment programs is largely to blame. That program has been modified to encourage people to look for jobs but will not end until September.

Tensions are high right now. The number of flights that have been delayed, turned back or cancelled because of unruly passengers is at an all time high. Prices are up in many different sectors for a variety of reasons but all of the root causes trace back to the 2020 pandemic and economic shutdown. The worldwide shortage of microprocessors and the incident with the cargo containers stuck in the Suez Canal didn’t help any. Some things have returned to something like normal while others remind us we’re not there yet. Baseball games have packed stadiums. Meanwhile as athletes arrive at the Olympic Village in Tokyo there is no ceremony, no cheering crowds, just olympians confined to their bubble. The vaccination rate in Japan is only about 20% and there will be no fans, not even family members, at the summer games.

Be patient. It’s hard to practice virtues but we are in a better place now than we were this time last year. Most churches in our area have returned to a full schedule of services and activities, many with no masks in sight. A church in D.C. has been awarded $220,000 in legal fees after a court determined they had the right to meet outdoors with safety measures in place all along. (An injunction allowed them to return to church grounds last October.) We may be limited to drive through only, some places may close early because of short staffing, but like I said, be patient. I think we are slowly getting there. Tip your server well if you are fortunate enough to have one. Take a deep breath – or two – before getting unchristlike in stressful situations. Zoom meetings, online grocery order and video streaming make a pandemic in this day and age easier to cope with than if the same thing had happened in the 1980’s. Can you imagine?

The United States is doing better than many other places in the world right now. India does not allow any public meetings at this time. Only 12% of their population of 1.3 billion has been vaccinated. Their churches do not have the physical or financial resources we have to work around the lockdowns either. Pray for Christian churches in India. My pastor friends Daniel Raj and Sikander Patras thank you. Do those things that Christians do – pray for one another, think of others more highly than yourself, forgive 70 times 7, bless others as you have been blessed – and that will go a long way toward making any situation more bearable.

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