Have you ever noticed the unfairness that is the following statement:
If you do your job, no one has any idea how many times you’ve delivered, sacrifices made, miracles pulled off to make everything go smooth sailing…yet, if you fail to do your job only one time EVERYONE will notice!
How cruel is this life sometimes?
Now, here’s the next level of unfairness – what happens when YOU show up to do your job and SOMEONE ELSE has failed to do their job ahead of you, which leaves you unable to do yours?
That’s some lose-your-mind-craziness going on, if you’ve ever been there – Feel free to comment below and tell us the story that got you in trouble, lost (or nearly lost) your job, chuck a few friends/peers under the proverbial bus (don’t use names), and let’s all have an Empathy Party together!
(cue the Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore gif angrily slamming a golf club into the sand)
Here’s my Story, which caused me to age 17 years in a span of 36 minutes last weekend…
I volunteer to serve in my church.
No one is paid for doing anything in our church no matter what position you are asked to fill, and some are asked to do more than others.
Even some pretty “unreasonable” duties, such as what I’m about to tell you I get to do.
For the past year I have been assigned to arrive at the church every 2nd Saturday before 6 AM to open the building and fill the baptismal font, which takes a quick 3 hours, prior to the 9 AM arrivals. I then clean everything up and usually am done around noon.
This is a life-changing commitment of the participants, a promise made to be baptized and follow certain teachings, and a person is baptized only once in their lives.
To be candid, no one realizes I’ve done anything on this day, and people rarely even see me there, as they are focused on the important task at hand – as they should be – this is a big day.
No one calls to remind me to wake up, no one emails me a few days prior to give a heads up that I need to remember the 2nd Saturday ceremonies are happening – it’s an assignment that happens every month, and it’s something I don’t mess around with.
I know many people that wouldn’t do this job for money (as that is the reaction from people I’ve told this is my assignment). You generally only do “unreasonable” when in service – for the commitment and promise it fulfills. And it makes me happy. So, to me, it’s an honor.
For the last year, things have been different in this COVID-19 world we live in, as very few are allowed to attend these services, and rarely does anyone come in the building except on Sundays.
I arrived dutifully at 5:58 AM, even having fallen asleep well after 2 AM due to a child issue, and unlocked the main foyer doors, walked to the restroom to unlock the baptismal font doors, and after placing the drain plug, reached up for the ever-present faucet key to start the water…
That is when my heart stopped. Or exploded. You choose, but I haven’t experienced a real heart attack yet, and don’t want to, but I imagine it feels kind of similar to the feeling you get when the KEY IS MISSING!
And yes, my friends, there is only ONE KEY. Ever made. ONLY ONE. And it was missing from it’s perfect little hiding spot, over 6-feet high on the wall hook where it’s labeled and supposed to always be (hanging along with the stick hook that unplugs the drain at the end of the ceremony).
There is even a label on the wall that says, “WATER CONTROL KEY”, and the accompanying keychain says the same. It should never not be there.
Yes, that’s where it’s supposed to always be. Especially at 6 AM on a Saturday morning.
Key was GONE!?!
I proceeded to go through every drawer and closet I have keys for, throughout the building.
Raced home, ripped apart all drawers, rifled through all jackets, pockets, anywhere this could have accidentally been placed.
Knowing I was the last person to fill the font a month earlier, I knew I was in trouble, and yet couldn’t imagine I hadn’t returned the key to its rightful place on the special hook on the special wall in its special location.
Now it was 6:30 AM.
No progress made, I jumped in my car, driving back to the church, and began calling every leader in the community that might have a clue as to where the key was.
Unfortunately, 6:30 AM on a Saturday in our community is a No-Cell Zone time for every person I reached out to. It’s called SLEEP.
Except for one person I knew would answer the phone if he saw me calling at 6:30 AM on the 2nd Saturday of the month: The Leader whom I report to in my church, the leader of our congregation, a man I never call for anything unless it’s an emergency.
After the 1st ring he groggily answered, saying, “Hello Jason, is everything ok?”
“President! I’m sorry to call so early. But the key to the baptismal font is gone!” I said in a shouting whisper, since by now I was back in the church running to the font to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me.
“You mean, the key that we only have one copy of, is gone? The one that opens the metal panel that turns on the water?” he asked.
“YES! I must have lost it! I believe I was the last one to fill the font, but I’ve been home and gone through every place it could be, and it’s…it’s…gone!!!” I did my best not to sound desperate, but it was too late (I was starting to act like the uncle on “It’s a Wonderful Life” after he’s misplaced the money).
“Can you get behind the metal plate on the wall to reach the faucet without the key? Or would you have a screw driver to break it open?” he suggested.
Well, I hadn’t thought about breaking it open! I mean, this is a church for heck’s sake! Who’s breaking locks to do church stuff?
I thought we could just call the people and tell them it’s not going to happen today, and then leave everyone disappointed, but that’s no good, so there must be a solution…and when the leader said it was ok to break the lock to make this work today my eyes starting zipping back and forth like the bad guy who suddenly gets a good idea – although, I wasn’t smiling in a wiley way, just in a stunned way.
“No, I hadn’t considered it. Are you giving me the go-ahead to break it?” I questioned.
“Well, if anyone’s going to break it, it should probably be me. I have a crowbar and some tools, I’ll be right over”, he said, as he hung up.
Within 2 minutes, another leader I had left a message for, the keeper of all keys in the building, showed up with 3 tackle boxes of labeled keys for all three churches in our community. We went through every key that could fit. Nothing worked. The missing key was a one-of-a-kind!
Suddenly, at the door stood our Leader, President Price.
We had only seen him before in a full suit and tie, but not in a moment’s notice on an early Saturday morning. Nope, instead today as we donned our COVID masks in an attempt to break into the church font, there he stood: Jeans, Leather Jacket, Indiana Jones hat, wielding a crowbar, 2 different screw drivers, and a hammer.
The Man had arrived!
Quickly he assessed what could be done with the crowbar and screw driver. Yes, it will definitely ruin the wall.
Instead, he assertively grabbed the metal plate, after cramming and fishing both hands around the top and bottom corners, and let out a grunt as he RIPPED the whole door open!
We looked at each other wide-eyed as the faucet handle looked back in shock! No damage done! The lock had even stayed in place and wasn’t broken!
I hurriedly turned on the faucet – it seemed to let out a sigh of joyous relief, having burdened so much pressure – and began to fill the all-important font.
Blood on the metal door!? We then realized President Price had cut open his hand.
Indiana Jones style!
He washed it off, assigned our building leader to submit an email for multiple copies of the key to be made and kept throughout the building, both men left as I prepared the building for the day’s activities – setting chairs, cleaning and sanitizing, vacuuming, and making the restrooms hospitable for the many who would be changing clothing for their special day.
All went as planned and…
So that’s the story.
Here’s the point. Well, there’s a few points if you’re willing to read this much further.
Had I slept in and the first group of people showed up at 9 AM to see the church not ready for this important day, then I’d be the Promise Breaker and everyone would blame me.
And yet, I’ve never slept in for this responsibility, to me it is SO important, one night I stayed up the whole night to make sure I didn’t sleep in.
Had the font never been filled, key never found, metal plate not broken into, and people showed up at 9 AM with me sitting there with my head in my hands, I would have been the Promise Breaker for not having done whatever it took to get things ready.
Had I not called the Leader and him given us permission to do what had to be done to get things ready, I would have chosen the option of calling everyone after doing all I could, one person at a time, and saying we have to reschedule…which really isn’t an option for the people that are committing to this most important covenant of their lives.
Had the KEY just been where it was…well, there wouldn’t be a story…there wouldn’t be a point. It would just be me showing up to do something no one knows I do unless I don’t show up!
So, then the POINT would be: Keep Your Promise, Do Your Job and ALWAYS REMEMBER TO Return The Key!
Did you notice that every Leader I was able to get in contact with did all they could to come to my rescue? Even if inconvenient, or not sure what to do, they came to create a solution!
That is the sign of Promise Leadership.
Sometimes the key is missing and there is no solution.
Usually the HULK doesn’t show up and rip open metal doors.
USUALLY you have to reschedule, apologize, and either get reprimanded, fired, or in my case, be released from the assignment and asked to step down from the position (which, as I’m writing this, may have been a great blessing to avoid having to wake up so early and have mishaps as such that others could deal with instead of me!).
But truth is: I love this responsibility. Whether anyone knows I do it or not, and most people don’t even think about who does it, because it’s always done right and just miraculously happens without fail!
This monthly service opportunity allows me to really keep a great Promise every month, which I feel is significant, life-changing for participants, and beautiful that I get to be a part of.
I WANT to be the person the whole community relies on for this important moment, regardless of who knows I helped or not.
Thus my level of freaking out when the key was missing;
Thus my effort to find a solution to have the day go forward without a hitch;
Thus my doing whatever it took to get it done.
Thus the ultimate need of everyone to Keep The Promise and do the job right, in good order, to avoid this kind of mess…
Your Promise Prompt This Week:
What are you responsible for that goes unnoticed, but if you didn’t do it, would be noticed immediately?
What level of recognition do you need to keep this Promise to those relying on you?
Or are you comfortable being the servant leader when all goes right, and the fall guy when all goes wrong?
(even when it’s not your fault!)
(keep reading to see who we get to blame!)
In other words: What is your Level of Promise?
And now, for the end of the story:
- The KEY was located a day later, and no, it wasn’t in my possession as I had assumed it must be…as it had been accidentally kept by someone who didn’t know where it was supposed to go. However, I’m not quite sure how that’s possible, due to the label on the wall and the keychain being as sized in the photo below.
- The day was perfect and everyone was happy, while they were able to make great promises themselves for a lifetime of memories
- Confession: President Price was actually wearing a baseball cap, and not the Indiana Jones hat, but I thought I should take a Hollywood liberty for the sake of storytelling. That happens once in a while. Just makes for a better story. You’re welcome!
~ Jason Hewlett
* The Promise Institute Co-Founder
* Promise Culture Keynote Speaker
* Speaker Hall of Fame
Author of “The Promise To The One”
4 thoughts on “The Missing Key”
Thanks for sharing Jason. Amazing example from not only you but your leadership as well. Too often we fall into the “well someone else must have taken the key” trap. Instead of owning up to our problems and fixing them ourselves we want to just blame it in someone else. Even though in this case it actually wasn’t your fault you acted as though you were the one to lose the key. Your leaders, instead of blaming you and hassling you about why the key was missing just showed up and took care of the problem. Glad it all worked out- that usually happens when we seek to keep our promises and are engaged in His work.
Great words and perspective Kurt. Thank you so much for commenting and engaging.
a great read today Jason, I was with you all the way! thanks!
hahaha! Thank you, Don! I didn’t realize how long this was until I read it back through on my phone and went – whoa! Who’s going to make it through this one?