Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Family Forte: The Simple Virtue of the Yellow Vests

by: Topher Wiles

     I’m like most of you, growing up hearing quick quips like “it’s good enough for government work” and “How many government workers does it take to change a light bulb?” Being influenced by a culture of regular jabs at our civic workers makes even the best of us look for the lazy as we travel down highway construction zones. Yet, a recent TDOT worker in Sparta made me reconsider my culturally influenced perspective and reminded me of one of my important parenting principles for building strong families.
Point out the positive more than naysaying the negative. 

     Have you ever been a part of a church or met a family whose identity is defined by what they don’t do? Rather than being known for the fruit that they bear, how they make the world a better place, or how they bring glory to God, they focus on a checklist of things they don’t do that makes them “righteous.” In reality all they are creating is self-righteousness. As a dad, this pitfall is an easy trap to fall into as one of my primary roles in training my kids is discipline and correction. You’ll frequently hear me tell my boys, “Wiles men don’t whine,” “My boys will not lie,” or “We don’t hit.” If I’m not careful, I build a code of conduct that isn’t focused on positive communication, integrity, and gentleness but rather is a simple list of “do nots.”

     It takes purposeful and intentional effort to point out the positive more than naysaying the negative. As a parent, my positive efforts have lead me to create new mantras such as, “The men of the Wiles family don’t hit, but we do handshake, hug, help, and hold each other accountable.” As a preacher it means that I focus more messages on the positive ways Christ changed our world rather than negative behaviors. Yes, I’ll still tell people to abstain from drunkeness, sex outside of marriage, and the love of money; things that constitute the “milk” or elementary teachings of the Bible. However, the primary focus of most messages deals with cultivating a hope through salvation in Christ that breeds the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I want our church and my family to have a reputation for how we love God and our neighbors more than being known as “the church that doesn’t have musical instruments” or “the family that doesn’t watch tv.”

     That is why the TDOT workers I witnessed on Tuesday are so valuable. When I see those bright yellow reflective vests, no longer will I be conditioned to think they are lazy trying to gain as much hourly wage for as little work as possible. The group of men at Pressed 4 Time on North Main Street in Sparta got my attention for their respect, courtesy, and willingness to work. It was standing room only for lunch at this swift little sandwich shop located just across the road from the building where Central Church of Christ meets. I love to frequent this establishment because of their welcoming smiles and their Buffalo Kickin Chicken toasted sandwich. (Topher’s Tip: Add the dipping ranch and the homemade sweet-heat pickles and you’ve got an explosion of flavor in every bite!) All the tables were full on this lunch hour and this team of four yellow vests were occupying one of them when another group of four locals walked in.
I nabbed a quick cell phone shot of the sweeper.

     Due to rising popularity of the cafe, Annie and Sharon were literally “Pressed 4 Time” in taking orders, bussing tables, and delivering food, all while responding to smalltalk, smiling politely, and welcoming the new group who would need to wait for a table. The TDOT boys looked like they’d been sweating hard out in the sun that summer day and needed a full hour lunch break to rest and recover when they saw the new group walk in needing a table. Even though they weren’t finished with their food yet, the yellow vests recognized the dining dilemma, wrapped up the remainder of their sandwiches “to go,” and began bussing their own table. They cleaned up their own trash and quickly wiped their table, much to Annie’s protest. Then, one went an extra step and grabbed the broom. Noticing that his boots left mud tracks on the light colored floor under the table, he worked to quickly sweep every nook and cranny around the table and then also swept the rest of the main walkway through the restaurant. How often do you witness restaurant patrons doing the dirty work? In under a minute, the polite group of TDOT workers had Pressed 4 Time ready for the newcomers and were hopping back in their work truck.

     In that minute, my perspective of “good enough for government work” was changed by these four reflective vests, especially the broom man, who put a high value on respect, courtesy, and working hard to serve others. As a parent and preacher, I could naysay the negative by telling my kids, “Don’t leave your toys on the floor,” or chiding congregants with instructions, “Don’t leave Sunday lunch waitresses regretting that you were there.” Yet I know my words will have more impact if I frequently point out the positives in life like the time I witnessed the Simple Virtue of the Yellow Vests. Always strive to be like these four workers as you seek to serve your community, be respectful of your neighbors, and leave every place better than you found it.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” - Galatians 6:9

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,