Buffing Nails

It happens every week day, usually more than once.  The Lovely Lady answers the phone at our business, only to hear the voice on the other end of the line ask for me.  As often as not, she has to tell them that I am not available to talk, but she can help.

She can.

Still, it gives a little boost to my self-esteem to know people all over the country are asking for me by name.  They’re even disappointed when I don’t have time to talk with them.

Clearly, it would be nicer if they wanted to speak with me because I am well-known or even the keeper of some secret knowledge.  If I were a world famous author with umpteen best sellers to my credit, then I could really feel proud to have them call for me.

I wish you could see me now.  I’m sitting at my desk, breathing on my fingernails, then rubbing them on my shirt in the region of my left shoulder.  It’s a gesture I haven’t seen for many years, but I remember it well. 

I think the once popular rap artist MC Hammer would say it this way: Can’t Touch This!  Maybe you remember it as hot stuff.  In my childhood, we just said the words easy as pie, to indicate that it was nothing for us, but anyone else who tried was likely to fail.

So I sit here, feeling superior and polishing my nails, as I think about the lady from Brooklyn who needs my personal attention, the fellow from Dallas who can’t make a decision without me, and the senior citizen from San Jose who is lost without my guidance.

Then I remember. Again. 

When the Lovely Lady says the words, “He’s busy; may I help you?” not one of them insists on waiting or calling back.  Not one.

You’ve heard the words before, haven’t you?  No one is indispensable.

I can be replaced.

I stop my nail polishing and think about that for awhile.  It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? 

And then, there’s that other thing.  You know, the fact they’re only calling to order something which we’ll mail to them.  They’re not asking me to make a decision about whether it’s time to bomb our enemies out of existence.  No one is wondering if I know the best way to cure the common cold.

So, it’s not only that I can be replaced.  The plain fact is, what my fans want to talk about is not really all that important in the grand scheme of life.

I stick my hands in my pockets this time. 

What’s the point, anyway?

Perhaps, as the Preacher said, all is meaningless,  simply vanity upon vanity.

Ah, but I don’t believe that.  With my hands in my pockets, leaning back in the old oak desk chair, a picture comes to mind.  It is from a story I’ve never really cared for, mostly because it was not real, but a contrivance.  I always like real-life stories to illustrate real life. 

For now though, the exception:

The boy walked along the sea shore, bending down again and again to pick up starfishsomething and throw it into the water.  The jaded businessman, walking along the beach behind him, finally caught up with the boy and asked him what he was doing.  Opening his arms up wide to indicate the stranded starfish lying on the beach, the boy let the man know he was helping to save their lives.

The man looked around them and saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the starfish lying on the sandy shore.  Laughing at the  boy, the rude fellow made it clear he believed him foolish, telling him he couldn’t make a difference to all of them.  Many would die.

Picking up one more of the strange creatures from the wet sand, the boy tossed it out into the surf and blurted out obstinately, “I made a difference to that one.”

The story is a contrivance–yes.  It was made up to prove a point.

I get the point.

So–what I do isn’t going to save humanity.  It doesn’t matter.

Tomorrow, I’ll pick up the phone and, remembering to smile, I’ll ask the person on the other end of the line if I can help them.  It’s what I do.

I’ll make a difference for that one person. 

And, the next time the phone rings, and the next time, and still the time after that, I’ll remember to smile and I’ll do what I can to help.

Every person who reads this has a purpose for their existence.  Some will be more important than I can imagine; others will perform a menial, seemingly insignificant, task day after day–a task that must be done.  And each one will make a difference.

Without exception, each one will impact the life or lives of others around them.

I do matter!  Sure, I can be replaced.  And yet, my Creator placed me in just this place and time to make an impact on the world around me. 

While I’m here, I’m going to work to make a difference.

Before, I said I was proud my customers know me and ask for me by name.  That’s nothing.  God knew my name long before any of them did.  He calls me by name and wants me to walk with Him.

I’m pulling my hands out of my pockets again

Can’t you see me?  With the palm of my right hand facing me, I’m puffing gently on my folded over fingertips, putting a little condensation on the fingernails.  Time now to buff them with the cotton material of my shirt front.

Ah.  You’re doing it too, aren’t you?  It’s a good thing.  He knows your name, as well.

The Preacher did say one thing I agree with:  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your strength.

If God puts the work in front of us, it’s a sure bet that blessings will be ours as we accomplish that work.

We got this!

Easy as pie!



“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
(Isaiah 43:1 ~ ESV)


“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do little things with great love.”
(Mother Teresa ~ Roman Catholic missionary ~ 1910-1997)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “Buffing Nails

  1. I liked this, Paul. BTW, I’ve always figured you for a Keeper Of Odd Knowledge. 🙂 I’ll call soon.

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