I got my first job when I was 151/2 years old. That is if you don’t count the babysitting jobs I started doing when I was 11. My mom pimped my sister and I out for $.25 per hour. Just kidding - in a way - she really did tell everyone with small children in the neighborhood we would babysit for a quarter an hour without consulting us. But it worked out and I learned I didn't particularly want to do childcare as a career. When I was 151/2 I was hired at a local fast food restaurant which sold deep-fried chicken. It was the best chicken in the area and I was so excited to be hired there.
That job marked the beginning of a lifetime of employment in a wide variety of settings as I have always held a job of one sort or another since the time I worked the registers at Pioneer Take-Out. Quite often, through the years, I have held two jobs at the same time. Now is one of those times and they often lead to 15-or-more hours per day. Last night I was working my evening job and I started thinking about work ethics. I have a very strong work ethic and I was trying to determine where that comes from and why I work as hard as I do.
At every job I have ever held I have worked hard to be the very best I can be, no matter how trivial the job might seem. If you ask me to sweep the floor or wipe down the tables - the floor will be thoroughly swept and the tables wiped down better than anyone else can do. I don’t know why I do this considering I have pretty much zero competitive nature - even when I participate in sports or run a 10 K I am not out to beat anyone except myself. But when it comes to working I always try to be the best I can at whatever I do. I have had a really hard time trying to understand people who do not.
The two jobs I have now are teaching me a lot, though. I always admired Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13: “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” When I first read those words, I was living a pretty easy life financially. I had a nice house and a decent income and a lot of possessions. But I would read Philippians 4:11-13 as a prayer with a vaguely acknowledged caveat I kept in reserve in my mind, “I promise I will always be content no matter what my lot in life is, but please don’t test me by allowing me to lose what I have. I already know I can be content no matter what.”
I think about that now and wonder at my double-mindedness. The situation I currently find myself in is challenging at times. I no longer have those possessions or all I had before. I am working two jobs, neither of which pays extremely well. I am quite underemployed at both of them, yet I work hard to produce excellence no matter what I do. At one of them I have not had a raise in three years and getting a different job has not worked out. So I am working very hard for very little and I am getting a glimmer of an understanding as to why some people just give up and start trying to figure out how to live off of the system. Not that I think that is a proper solution at all and I would never be able to do it, but I can see why some folks opt for that because working very hard for very little can be very discouraging. I am glad I can experience empathy for people who find themselves in this situation, that is something I didn’t have before.
Throughout the years when I lived with plenty I had precious little patience for anyone who could not or would not hold down a job. And I assumed anyone who struggled to make ends meet must not be trying very hard. Or must have something wrong within him or herself, because everyone knows if you work hard and well - you will catch breaks and be blessed and life will be easy. What a judgmental, presumptive fool I was. And that is one of the biggest lessons this life has taught me. Slowly but surely God has stripped me of the judgmental attitudes I equated to my Christianity and is replacing them with a more open, understanding, compassionate being. A few years ago The Torch would not have worked out, because I was not ready. I am still a work in progress with a long way to go - but I most definitely am not the judgmental, self-righteous, self-centered, misguided Christian I was. Now I cringe when I hear the statements some Christians make about those who do not meet the standard. I know I was that way once and I am so thankful for the clarity and peace I have in my faith and my life now.
At this point, I can say, without caveat (well, maybe except when I am very exhausted - I AM a work in progress) I am content whatever my lot in life is. And I know my life has been prepared for this time, for this place, for The Torch.