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Love in the Workplace: A Tribute

By Mark D. Roberts | Monday, May 18, 2009

No, this is not a salacious story about sex on the job. I want to reflect about love in the workplace, the caring, giving, selfless kind of love, what Christians call agape (pronounced uh-GAH-pay).

In some jobs, love is virtually or actually part of the position description. For twenty years I was a parish pastor. Though neither of my job descriptions specifically mentioned that I was to love people, it was rightly implied. In fact, when I was ordained as a pastor in the PC(USA), and when I was installed as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I promised to: “love my neighbors, . . . serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, and “in [my] ministry, try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ” (Book of Order, G-14.0405).

Given my work history, you might expect me to associate love and work. Even now, in my position at Laity Lodge, I’m expected to love my colleagues and especially our guests at the Lodge. It’s part of my job. (Actually, it’s at the center of my job.) But I think all Christians are called to love in all contexts of life, including the workplace. This is true whether you’re a pastor, a teacher, a lawyer, or a security guard.

Yes, a security guard can be a loving person at work. That’s not only a biblically-based truth, but also an historical fact. I have known a security guard who used his position to love people, even those with whom he had to be tough, and many others besides. Today’s post is a tribute to this man, who died last week.

Ron Cherry was a security guard at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, where I was an associate pastor until I was called to Irvine in 1991. Ron began work there in 1988, so we overlapped for about three years. During that time I appreciated Ron because, with him around, I felt safe. That’s really saying something, because Hollywood Pres is located in a diverse urban setting, with all that that entails. There were many strange and dangerous people in the vicinity of the church, but Ron kept them from doing damage to people and property.

Yet even when he was dealing with some unsavory character, Ron did so with love. I watched him on a number of occasions confront somebody who was clearly up to no good. Ron was firm and tough, but never demeaning or insulting. He treated all people with respect, even when making sure they treated the church and its people with respect.

Ron exercised love in the context of his official work assignment. But that only begins to tell the story of his care for people. Ron was not just the security guard, but also the unofficial church greeter. I’ll be that, over the years, Ron welcomed hundreds of thousands of people to the church, literally. In the years after I left Hollywood Pres, Ron was usually the first person to greet me when I returned. His warm smile and handshake meant so much, and I will miss them.

Though Ron treated adults with friendly love, he was best with children. They loved Ron, especially the students at the Children’s Center (the weekday preschool). He visited them daily as a special friend, even as he made sure they were secure. My mother, who is a leader at Hollywood Pres, tells me that Ron’s death has been especially hard on the children of the church, and I can see why.

Ron Cherry did his job with exemplary love. He also used the opportunity afforded by his position as a security guard to love people by the thousands. He didn’t have to do this. It wasn’t in his job description, I’m quite sure. But the love of Christ radiated in Ron, and he just couldn’t keep it to himself.

Heaven is much better off today because Ron is there. I don’t think they need security guards in heaven, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ron is hanging around the pearly gates today, welcoming people home.

Thank you, Lord, for Ron Cherry. We will miss him! Thank you for his example of love at work. Help me to be as loving as he was, not only when I’m doing what my job description requires, but also in all of my interactions with colleagues, guests, and others. Amen.

Topics: Faith and Work |

9 Responses to “Love in the Workplace: A Tribute”

  1. Pseudo-Polymath » Blog Archive » Monday Highlights Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 6:03 am

    […] Charity in the workplace. […]

  2. Stones Cry Out - If they keep silent… » Things Heard: e68v1 Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 6:04 am

    […] Charity in the workplace. […]

  3. Peter Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Thank you, Pastor Roberts, for sharing this story. This guy made a difference, each day, in the lives of the many people he encountered.

    I can think of someone I know who has the same kind of impact on me as Ron Cherry had on the people he greeted. The guy I know is the manager of restaurant I go to that serves breakfast and lunch. His name is Ray. Ray know the name of nearly every customer who comes into this restaurant. Maybe he learns our names because it’s an effective way to promote “the feeling” of the restaurant, so that people will return for another breakfast or lunch. That’s ok with me. I think we (the customers) appreciate the personal interest he takes in each of us, and I think I am going to work at paying more attention to each of the people I meet.

  4. J Falconer Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks Rev. Mark Roberts for a heartwarming story. This person was obviously blooming where he was serving. Life can be challenging & it’s wonderful you noticed his kind & favorable qualities. He was showing warmth, compassion,kindness & justice that the world & most people seldom see or appreciate. Thanks you for sharing this person’s impact for a higher purpose. He might have gone thru struggles in his past & while he was alive-but what a bright light he gave. Thanks Again Blessings to your wife, children & relatives j

  5. Steve Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Well said, Mark. Our friend Ron will be greatly missed.

  6. Pam Tuszynski Says:
    May 19th, 2009 at 6:32 am

    You really captured the spirit of Ron. As the Director of the Children’s Center the past 10 years, I witnessed Ron’s caring for the children and parents. He always took time to say hello. We will all truly miss him.

  7. Rebecca Beech Says:
    May 19th, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    A beautiful tribute which I’m showing to my kids who were very saddened by the sudden loss of Ron.

  8. matilda novak Says:
    May 19th, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    This is a lovely tribute, to an unassuming man who would likely be surprised by it….
    His presence, warm smile and kind heart were a blessing to all who knew him, (and I’ll bet you’re right that he’s been helping welcome folks to heaven ever since his arrival)!

  9. Mabonga Emmanuel Says:
    January 15th, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Dear Pastor,
    This may be an old article but the message of love in it will never grow old. I was planning a message of love to my workmates in our Friday meeting but I needed a better understanding of love in the workplace. After several searches, I came across this article. Life will never be the same again. It will be very difficult to think of love in the workplace without remembering the story of old Ron Cherry.
    What Ron did ’sounds’like sign language - it is universal - it does not matter in what language he said what he had to say - it was LOVE- the language of no bounderies.
    I may be thousands of miles away but I imagined Ron as one of our security guards at our hotel here in Uganda.
    One lesson I have learnt is that I should not love my customers for their ability to pay for our services but because God is our number one employer and that He is Love and we being His children, we should fullfil His will and be loving - no matter the kind of person we meet.
    The second lesson is that if God was not discriminative in His love for the world (John 3:16), who are we to discriminate or choose who we love? Old Ron Cherry just got that spot on!
    The third lesson is that God uses the humble, the meek and ‘lowly’ to teach us His will, and that it is through humility He would like His name to be glorified. Otherwise who would spend his time talking about an old security guard? We have been conditioned to think that the best only comes from “great” people. Here I am learning from a man who is ’supposed’ to be saluting me! Amazing how the Almighty Lord does His things!

    Oh Lord, we thank you for such a lamp in our lives. May we learn from this story to be more and unconditionally loving to all those we meet in this life, AMEN.


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