By Elizabeth Kelly
My first job out of university was working as a teller in a bank. I was singing a lot on the weekends and working on my writing, but I needed a regular income, too. My mom had suggested I apply at a bank. She thought it might be useful for me to learn a bit more about how money works, and to that end – bless her heart – she was right.
In another sense, it turns out, I might have been the worst bank teller in all of Lawrence National Bank’s history. On one particularly foul day, I could not – though I tried valiantly – balance my till. I was rushing to finish so I could pick up my sister at the airport and the harder I tried to close my drawer, the more complicated and larger the error became. My teller station was being taken over by yards and yards of teller tape that dangled and swelled like a terrible paper tentacle. At one point, I thought it might come to life, reach up, and choke me.
In pity, and I think in some well-earned dread, the bank manager finally let me leave without resolving the issue. She said, “Go ahead, I’ll balance your drawer for you.”
But she couldn’t. It took a specialist in the main bank’s downtown accounting division to find my error over two days of working on it to put it right again. I would have been fired without her effort. Even though my colleagues knew I did not take any money from my drawer, on paper it appeared that my till was short a large amount.
At the end of the calendar year, as a part of a company-wide annual report, all teller offages for the entire year were reported in a statement several pages long at the back of the document. It read something like this: Ashley Baker . . . $ 0.00. Mary Davis . . . $ 0.00. Teresa Franks . . . $ 0.05. Ann Jackson . . . $ 0.00.
And then came my reporting line: Elizabeth Kelly . . . $ 1,879.14.
Failure can be an excellent teacher, and spectacular failure can be a spectacular teacher. A few months later I was on my way to Alaska where I had been heavily and rather miraculously recruited for a creative writing program. No doubt, all of Lawrence National Bank breathed a sigh of relief. And me along with them.
I am mindful of the many occasions I have tried to be someone I wasn’t, someone I thought the world wanted me to be, someone I thought might please someone else. I am wildly grateful for the mentors the Lord has sent me over the years to tease out my gifts and charisms, to help identify them and then to steward them and put them at the service of my heavenly Father. For in this way, I decrease and he must increase. And someone far better suited and more capable than I can cash your paycheck correctly.
Loving Father, thank you for the gifts you have given me and the opportunities to make you better known and loved through them. Remember all those who are searching for suitable work. Do not tarry in helping them to discover their talents and to put them at your service.