Monday, May 13, 2013

Finding home #4--Not The Zamboni Driver Dream

“The second journey begins when we know we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the morning program.” –Brennan Manning

                “I’d like to get a job driving the zamboni up at the hockey arena, or maybe the cute little sidewalk snowplow. Something mindless—just smooth scratches in ice or cut swaths through snow,” my friend announced after retiring from her long-held position as a first-grade teacher.
                Being a teacher myself, I imagined the supposed satisfaction from doing something physical—seeing an immediate result, a beginning and an end. So when I quit my job teaching in a small Christian school to move south, I wasn’t particularly worried about what we would do for work. We had a tidy nest egg which we thought was sufficient to tie us over while we settled in our new home town.
                But, like an unmannered pooch at a chicken-laden picnic table, the Renovation gulped its allocated funds and ate its way through our savings. One of us had to get a job soon.  Although we had been cavalier about our job prospects when we were back in Vermont, we now felt intimidated about the reality of the job search. Online applications were unheard of the last time we had looked for work. And lurking beneath our bravado was the realization that we were different now—too young to retire, but too old to include dates on resumes.
The Yellowbook Deliverer         
                Although I met the qualifications in the newspaper ad —no experience necessary, just a car—my anxieties competed with the rain for an excuse to turn around and go home. At exit 34 I gave myself a pep talk: You can do this. You have a master’s degree, a Bible degree, and years of teaching experience, to say nothing of all the traveling you’ve done. 
                For crying out loud, you can deliver Yellowbooks.
                At exit 33, I flicked the blinker, swallowed the knot in my chest, and turned toward the warehouse.
                The rain slowed to a grey spit. I pulled into the muddy yard of the warehouse and drove around to the rear of the building where several vans were backed up to the loading dock. Synchronized teams of Latino men relayed armfuls of telephone books, stuffing them into plastic sleeves before tossing them into the empty cavern of their vans. I parked my car and got out to find the person in charge.
                You would have thought I’d just kicked open the swinging doors of the OK Saloon,  all eyes turned toward me, the only female in the place—a white, obviously middle class female, wearing diamond earrings and a black leather jacket. Although as full of uncertainty and as self conscious as a gawky girl at her first dance, I squared my shoulders, selected a route from the wall map, and then backed my car up to the dock where the fork lift was waiting to drop my pallet of books.
                The sound of grating metal stopped me. Trying to look nonplussed about the dent I had just put in my Honda CRV, which I suspected was going to cost more money to repair than I would make in days of hanging directories on doorknobs, I stuffed my car with the yellow bundles and drove off in search of an empty parking lot where I could bag books and cry.
                Three days and a hundred dollars later, I decided to try something else.

The Airport Security Screener
                  The Sunday paper was our lifeline to the world beyond the Renovation. We’d come back from our morning outing to whatever church we had targeted for that day, open containers of Chinese take-out from the nearby Dragon’s Den, and search the job ads.
                “Wow, here’s a job I wouldn’t mind,” I said. “It’s for a security screener at the little airport only ten minutes from here.”  I pictured myself scanning luggage in my blue shirt and trousers, a lanyard with my picture strung around my neck. How hard could it be? Hoping to beat the competition, I quickly scheduled an appointment for the test.
                The attendant ushered me and the one other applicant into a room lined with computers. We each chose our spot. “This is a timed test,” she said. “There are two parts, you may begin.”
                 English may not be this country’s official language but government employees still need to know it. With a smugness born out of years of teaching grammar, I clicked off one answer after another, finishing Part One with plenty of time to spare. Confident this was one of my finer moments of test-taking, I began Part Two. For a woman who could never find the baby in a sonogram, identifying dangerous items buried in x-rayed images of luggage was as incomprehensible as interpreting a painting designed by the trunk splashings of an elephant.
                 Screens flashed by. I felt as though I was in the scene from I Love Lucy where, unable to keep up with the rapidly moving candy conveyer belt, Lucy crams her mouth with the uninspected candies. I rapidly clicked, and guessed, and hoped something in the tangle of carry-on items was a knife.
                The test results almost beat me home. All I can say is that the country is probably a far safer place because I failed.
Chip Chick and other assorted job titles   
                Over the next few years, we stuffed vending machines, worked in bookstores, Home Depot, and numerous other minimum-wage paying jobs trying to refashion a life overturned from a chaotic economy and a backfired dream.  It wasn’t at all as romantic as the zamboni fantasy.
             You would think living by faith gets easier the older you get. It’s true you have a heftier pocketful of memory stones—cool hard reminders of places and times where He met you. But each new confrontation with financial frailty, health threats, and relationship insecurities demands its own test of trust.  And sometimes, regardless of how many years you’ve walked with the Lord, your faith, like a victim of Alzheimer’s, freezes in mid air and forgets how to proceed.

            So much of our identity and sense of purpose was wrapped up in what we did, now, apart from a means of survival, so meaningless. This was especially difficult for Bob. What was a pastor without a pulpit? 

            Like the Renovation, it would take time before we would appreciate the reconstruction going on in our own hearts and the wisdom this sojourn into an unfamiliar land would produce. And at the end of the day be able to agree with Manning in saying, “None of [our] failures in faithfulness have proved terminal. Again and again, radical grace has gripped [us.]

Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him and He will do it.—Psalm 37:4-5

Blessings friends--especially in prayer for any of you in life-change and job hunting.


  1. I hear you loud and clear, too loud and all too clear! To young and poor to retire and too old to include dates on a job resume...that is me too. After 25 yrs of ministry Hubs is working at Home Depot and I am kinda lost with no marketable skills and a fear of giving change to people that crosses any retail jobs off the list.
    I recall my mom delivering phone books with us kids in the backseat. yikes!

  2. Steve and I just had the "phase into retirement" talk this past weekend. Not sure what that will look like for me right now, but isn't it interesting the doors God opens for us? Can't wait for your next installment, Marcia :)


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