Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dream Job

I have found my dream job.

My latest job (the total is now up to six) entails sitting in a classroom with students who are absolutely quiet and always on task. Occasionally, I give them directions which they all follow to the letter. No one jumps out of a seat, refuses to do work, or argues about a classmate. At the end of the day they hand in their work and look at me with relief and gratitude. I, in turn, hand in their work, without having to grade anything, and get paid.

Yep, I am supervising high school students while they take one of those well-known college entrance tests.

The fine man who hired me to do this is a bit surprised that I am willing to do the work. I don’t think he understands what I have been working with over the last 26 years of teaching. His wife, a teacher of middle school age students, fully understands I am sure.

I was watching a show on PBS last night called “Status Anxiety.” It expounded an interesting theory about how we cause ourselves immense stress and grief, both as individuals and as a society, when we agonize over status. Am I respected? Am I in the ‘in’ group? Do I live on easy street? Am I doing something important? Am I getting the recognition I deserve? Do I have hope to change my situation or to live the life I dream of?

The commentator traveled far and wide interviewing people about poverty and status. His point was that we are driven, from infancy, to get attention, and this rules our lives. While we certainly see evidence of this in the media I was intrigued by his interviews with a preacher of “prosperity gospel.” The man interviewed left the impression that he believed that your wealth and status was proof that God loved you. I found this even more despicable than the politically ultra-conservative lobbyist for the NRA who insisted that poor people deserved to be poor because they choose to be poor.

C.S. Lewis wrote that the root of all sin is pride. C.S. Lewis was a wise man.

Years ago I read a book that talked about the Amish people. I do not remember the premise of the book but I do remember the description of the Amish lifestyle and especially how much there was a lack of status regarding work to be done. There was no preference for the kind of work, just gratitude that there was work and the ability to do it. I was reminded of this at my retail job last night. I was working the cash register, which during snowy weather also includes a mop to keep the floor by the door dry. I was mopping away and wondering if my mopping was really doing any good or if it was creating a more dangerous surface, when a customer looked at me with such sadness and pity. “Have a good Christmas,” she said, shaking her head and walking sadly away. If I had had a glass on the counter, I think I would have gotten a nice tip.

I find this kind of pity rather strange. My manager for my retail position has apologized to me before because she worries she is taking away from the “important” work I am doing at phd school. I shake my head and reassure her that not only do I need the money but I enjoy this job that gets me out of my office and pulls my head out of a book to talk to real people for a while. The truth is, my work at phd school is a lot about keeping the professors happy and while I find my studies interesting and fulfilling, I doubt they are important in the whole scheme of things.

I have a cartoon pinned to my bulletin board that reads “I guess you don’t need a Ph.D to change the world.”

Abraham Lincoln changed our country and he didn’t even have a college education. For Martin Luther and his namesake, Martin Luther King Jr. a doctorate was just a part of the process. They each changed the world through the hard work of every day jobs and through the guidance of God. Ask any early childhood teacher and he or she will tell you that there is no glamour in mopping up vomit, finding dry pants, or scraping a puddle of glue out of the back of a desk. However, these acts of ministry are vital for the well being of the children in your care. Yes, you literally, share God’s love while mopping.

God is helping me to understand that whatever I am doing at any moment of the day, whether it is mopping floors or grading papers, is the most important thing for me to do at that time. I don’t need to be changing the whole world; I just need to change my little part of it. If it is God’s will, it’s all good.

So that brings me to my prayer for this week; God, let me be doing Your will, and let me be doing it with gratitude and praise.

In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. Ephesians 2: 21-22


Caron said...

I loved your article here. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Karl Marxhausen said...

Painted portrait in my christmas post reminds me of his breaking in and the embrace that makes me his.

Fragrance of joy for you in 2009, Kim.