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Sunday, January 15, 2012

You do what you must do & you do it well...

I've been thinking a lot lately about work. I happen to be in a men's bible study called Winning at Work & At Home & I'm reading Working by Studs Terkel. Subconsciously, I suppose doing both of these at the same time isn't really a coincidence, but Working has been sitting on my shelf for a long time & I didn't think to read it when we we started the section on work a few weeks ago. I just happened to pick it up the other night while I was playing with Lillian. Both ask the question, one implicitly, the other explicitly, why people do what they do.

Mostly what got me to thinking about work, though, are the pictures of my Grandfather that my sister posted on the computer. I always knew that my Grandpa worked in paint, I often boast about how he was one of the scientists that worked on the first exterior latex paint. Then it got me thinking about Opa, & how he gave me my first paying job (other than the money to go to Bud's party store my ol' man gave me for mowing the lawn) painting the cow palace. It probably took me a month to do a job that should've taken me four days, but luckily for Opa, I got paid by the job & not by the hour, not counting the life lesson & the lunch that Oma made for me everyday.

I can't say as though I'm extremely proud of my profession as a paint salesman. It pays fairly well, it's a relatively safe job, & for the most part, I think I'm pretty good at it. I usually enjoy it, although I'm not crazy about working for a big corporation & all the silly things that go along with that. Two of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to work are when people try to make their job out to be more important than it really is, or, on the other hand, when people just show up to collect a paycheck & don't give it their all. The most important thing for any man at his job, in my opinion, is if he has anything to show for himself the end of the day, & I usually can say I got something accomplished when I go home. I think I'm a pretty hard worker most of the time. I hate leaving work with unfinished business. My two favorite things about my job are shooting the breeze with my customers & putting paint away & cleaning & organizing the store. You get to know people pretty well doing my job, or at least as well as you want to know them. Getting to know them is good for business, but I'd like to say I'd get to know them even if it wasn't. Who knows? As far as putting paint away, there's something to be said about manual labor. Just about every man I know, or at least the ones I respect get an odd satisfaction out of manual labor.

Take my old man, for instance. He's a pastor, & a good one at that. I don't think he'd be half as good at what he does if he didn't grow up on a farm. He still works at the farm a lot. I think he gets his energy for being a pastor from working the land. Some people get their energy from talking to & being around other people, not my dad, he gets his energy from work. I never asked my dad how he came to the decision to be a pastor. The idea of pastors being "called" always intrigued me. I know in some way he was "called" by God to be a pastor, but I never knew how that actually happened, maybe it's a series of events, maybe it's God's voice actually entering his ears. Maybe he doesn't even know, but I do know that the world wouldn't be the same without him as a pastor. The reason I know he was "called" to be a pastor, is because, if given a choice, if it were up to him, I'm quite certain my old man would've chosen to be a builder or a farmer, or something where he works with his hands.

So maybe we are all "called" to do what it is we do. My mom & my sister are on this kick where they go on ancestry.com & figure out where are relatives come from. It's fascinating to me to reflect on my own life & all the tiny little decisions I've made that have greater consequences. For example, if I didn't know my friend Mike, & had we never went to Grand Valley State University, I never would've worked in the paint business. Had I never worked in the paint business, I never would've met my friends Dan & Kelly & they wouldn't have introduced me to my wife Christie. Had they never introduced me to Christie, Lillian wouldn't be here. So maybe our "calling" has nothing to do with what we want, maybe we're just God's vessels. Think of all the small, seemingly inconsequential decisions all of my ancestors made that led to me sitting here right now. Maybe the fact that Gramps was a paint man, & Opa hired me to paint was just the writing on the wall.

This may sound corny, but my biggest aspiration in life right now doesn't have much to do with a career, but rather to be Lillian's Dad & Christie's husband. Maybe Lillian will do something great, but that reminds me of a song, where a guy talks about his son, & he wonders how can he expect more out of his son than he did for himself. Have you ever seen that Cosby Show clip, where Theo gets bawled out for having bad grades? He tells his dad that he doesn't want to be a doctor or a lawyer like his parents, he just wants to be a regular person who drives truck. He tells his dad he hope he would love him anyway. His dad tells him that's the dumbest thing he's ever heard. The older I get, the more that scene bothers me, I know they were trying to say you should strive to be the best you can in life, but it implies that truck drivers & janitors don't strive to be their best. I like the poem where the guy tells his friend's newborn daughter that he hopes she turns out to be normal, if that what it takes for her to be happy. I hope I never give Lillian a big speech about how she needs to do something big & important with her life, & I don't want to be one of those parents who lives vicariously through their kids. That's just sad. I just hope whatever she's called to do, she does it the best she can. I think the world needs teachers & nurses or even janitors just as much, if not more, as they need CEO's or doctors or senators.

I'm not sure what I would do if I could do whatever I felt like. I've always dreamed about owning a record store or a book store, but in 20 years, there probably won't be anymore of those, besides, Grand Rapids already has a great record store. I've always dreamed about being an English Teacher, but those aren't exactly in high demand, either. Besides, I'm not sure I have the time or the patience to go back to school for that long. I always thought it might be something to be a congressman, but I'm pretty sure I don't have the personality for it. Besides, Ottawa or Kent Counties never elect Democrats, & I don't plan on moving. So, for now, I'll just keep on selling paint, after all, it's what I was called to do.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

I Was Meant for the Stage-The Decemberists

Angel From Montgomery-John Prine

Rivers & Roads-The Head & the Heart

America!-Bill Callahan

Moody's Mood For Love-King Pleasure

Have a good week, friends...


Kevin Davis said...

As a husband, father, Christian, and fellow retail workhorse, I immensely enjoyed reading this. Hope all is well.

Mrs. Patterson said...

Andrew, your words make my eyes teary, my throat lumpy and my brain thirsty. Paint enhances our lives in powerful ways. I am very familiar with that Cosby episode. I begin my career unit with it and follow up with a discussion regarding work ethic. This post is invaluable, now I'm going back to listen to the music.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...