The Parables of Self Service Machines
By Fin Sheridan
Every time we go to the supermarket, we’re faced with a choice. It’s normally a more stressful choice than any of us would like: it’s the choice between going through the checkout system, assisted by a real person, sat at a conveyer belt or to brave the self service machines.
Self service machines are a brilliant theory. More cost effective for the supermarket, they work 24-7 without needing a break or a lunchtime stop. They always give the right change, never serve alcohol to someone who is underage and mean everyone can get in and out of the supermarket as quickly as possible. All these things are true… when they work. But when they don’t, I’m not sure there is anything more frustrating.
“Beep! Unexpected item in bagging area!” – it’s my groceries, and this is a grocery store – how unexpected can they be?!
“Beep! Approval needed!” – which means that a shop assistant has to come over and do something with the machine, nullifying the whole point of it being a ‘self service’ machine..
“There’s no real shortcuts to spiritual growth or to becoming the person that God has called us to be.”
This isn’t a rant about self service machines (honestly, it’s not!) but there are some things that they can teach us about life. Here are some observations which might challenge or provoke some thoughts:
Shortcuts often take longer. The self service machine is meant to save you time. Often it doesn’t: you end up taking much longer than using the tills. The same applies in life: cutting corners rarely works out well. There’s no real shortcuts to spiritual growth, character, maturity in Christ or in becoming who God has called you to be.
We can’t always do it ourselves. Even though, 80% of the time, self service machines are actually self service machines, we often need someone to come in and help us with them. Relying on ourselves isn’t often the best way: we need one another.
Are we actively avoiding each other? Now, maybe I’m overthinking things but sometimes I think I choose the self service machine because I don’t want to talk to someone. I don’t want to bother with small talk, I just want to get on with my business. I, I, I, Me, Me, Me. Every interaction with another person is a special thing; a chance to show love, care, compassion, joy with another human being. Maybe it will take longer but sometimes moments with people matter more than a couple of saved extra minutes.