On Labor, Days and Dirty Jobs

Since this is Labor Day weekend, I thought I’d look back at a few of the jobs I’ve had and think about how they have impacted on my life and my faith journey.  When I think about it, most of my waking hours have been spent working.  And so, the challenge for all of us in life is to figure out how we can give God these work hours as well.  Can we go to work not “working for the man” but giving these hours to God?  Now, as a pastor, that’s a lot easier for me, but I think in the end all of us can do that.  This fall, I’m going to teach a Sunday school class called “Work as Worship.”  I encourage you to join me as we struggle with how to balance work/family/and God.  Now for my jobs:

My first job was bailing and stacking hay out on a farm.  I weighed about 98 pounds wet, and the bails were about 60-80 pounds.  We had to lift the bails up onto rows and stack them higher and higher.  I learned two things on this job.  First, I learned what whiskey tasted like (one of the farmers thought is was his job to lead the PK astray and so the last day I worked for him I took a swig…and proceeded to spit it out!) He thought that was hilarious!  The more lasting thing I learned was humility.  At 14 I was scrawny.  I just didn’t have the physical mustard to bail hay. At 98 pounds there was no way I could get a bail of hay up over my shoulders.  So, I was strong enough to stack the first 2 rows of hay in the stack, but then I had to share the load with someone else…usually someone about 3 years younger than I was…a very humbling experience indeed. I remember the first time I tried to get a bail of hay up to the third row and failed.  The whole place was snickering.   And it took all my inner “mustard” not to let a tear fall!  But, to my credit, I stuck it out.  And in the end, I hope I earned a little respect from those guys!

My first full-time summer job was as an “egg Candler” Actually I didn’t “candle” eggs, I just placed the eggs in cartons after the eggs were candled. (If you don’t know what candling eggs is, check out this video.) This was a dirty job, but I learned two things while working this job.  First, I learned that there are some tough and dirty jobs in this world.  And for some people they work those jobs all their life!  And I grew to respect those folks.   Second, I learned that there was kind of a “lie” in marketing eggs that disturbed me.   All the eggs for the supermarkets came through our place, and each brand just had a different package.  The price in the supermarket meant absolutely nothing.  They all came from our plant and they were all coming from the same farms.   That was disturbing to me and it kind of turned me off to our capitalistic ways.  I had always thought stores were truthful, especially grocery stores.  My innocence was shaken.

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One other summer job I remember was the job I had as the dishwasher at the Howard Johnson Hotel.  The 1 thing that sticks in my mind about this job was that I learned that sometimes it is all on you!  There was no backup dishwasher that summer.  If I missed a day of work, those dishes were still waiting for me the next day.  In fact, I remember taking a week off for a music camp that summer.  I came back to work and there were pots and pans piled up to the ceiling! All sorts of stuff were caked onto these pans, and there I was, all by myself with an insurmountable mountain of dishes in front of me. 14 hours later my boss told me I could go home and hit it again in the morning. Three 14-hour days later, I had it tackled!  It was a good lesson.  It was all on me.  When I finished cleaning that last pot, I felt an incredible sense of pride from putting in that work.  I also gained a ton of respect from my boss.  He thought for sure I was going to quit…but I didn’t.  Afterwards, he gave me a 5-cent raise: from $1.65/hr. to $1.70/hr.  The best part about that job was that I had earned enough money to buy my own school clothes.  No more JC Penny Plain Pocket jeans and cheap “K-mart” tennis shoes for me!  I bought 2 pairs of Levi button-fly Jeans and one pair of fancy Hiking Boots.  I wore those jeans every day of my Junior year (and to this day I’m convinced that that jean and boot combo I attracted my first girlfriend!)

Probably the toughest year of my life as far as work goes, was my first year of teaching. The school was tiny…37 kids in the high school.  But I was teaching K-12 music and band.  I had the whole enchilada!  What a crazy year.  The only thing I really had in my teaching back pack was a love of music and lots of enthusiasm.  I knew absolutely nothing about the mechanics of teaching.   The hardest transition that year was going from teaching kindergarten music straight into HS band!  Added to my first year of teaching was that fact that Cyndy and I were newly married and that Cyndy was expecting our first child.  I’m embarrassed to say that I wasn’t much help to Cyndy…I was totally lost in trying to survive my first year of teaching!   It was that year that we started going back to church.  I directed the choir at both the Lutheran church and the UCC church (we needed that extra $50 a month) and Cyndy and I wouldn’t have gotten through those years with out the prayers, support, and friendship of those choirs and our pastor: Rev. Ron Nuss/Warren. 

And so, as we head into another “year” at Bear Creek may we put our hearts together to support all those out working, teaching, and surviving.  May we be the prayer, support, and friendship of Christ in their lives.

Your pastor and friend, still “working” it as hard as I can, Pastor Brook

Tim Schaaf