Alas, I’ve been too busy of late to post to my blog here. But today Chris Cree of HighCallingBlogs.com sent out a newsletter that mentioned a very interesting group writing project that they have started called: What is the Strangest Job You’ve Ever Had?
I’ve read Mark D. Roberts (Lessons From Odd Jobs) on his lawn work for a gregarious and assertive employer named Mrs. Bivans who taught him that even those who seem very professional have real lives too. Behind professional exteriors lie human hearts and emotional histories we all too frequently are little aware of.
I also read Marcus Goodyear’s post (Once Upon a Time I Was a Guinea Pig) whose experience having to stand for hours as an ergonomic study subject forever altered his perspective on Paul’s writing on how Christians have to “stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”.
So what is the strangest job I’ve ever had and what did I learn from it? Well, I’ve only had a few jobs in my life. Just about 99.9 percent of my working life has been as a software engineer, and while you may think that is a strange job, I assure you, it is simply logical.
But after my first job programming computer simulations of nomadic herdsmen in Saudi Arabia, I found myself unable to get another software job so I tried a couple other things neither of which lasted for any amount of time. Selling solar water heaters just wasn’t my cup of tea, and telling my last prospect that I would be fired if I didn’t close my sale with him, only caused him to get angry at the company for engaging in such strong arm tactics. For some odd reason, it didn’t instill in him a desire to actually buy the product.
But that wasn’t the strangest. No, the strangest was the day I worked for Mrs. Hope Jones.
I met Mrs. Jones at a fast food establishment. She looked for all the world like a homeless bag lady; disheveled, unkempt and overly weighed down with coats that didn’t fit the hot Arizona weather. My wife and I figured she couldn’t afford a meal, so we offered to buy her some food, but we soon learned that she owned a large lot of land right next to the apartment building where we lived.
While we ate our food at that Jack in the Box, she told us a tale of woe that started with unreliable Mexican workers and ended with her son trying to steal her land from her by citing her alleged languishing mental faculties as justification. In between, we learned that she had inherited lots of money from her rich East-coast establishment family, roughly on par with the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts.
Now, it turned out she needed help as she had taken in dozens and dozens of stray dogs and put them in pens on her land. Seeing she was having trouble finding reliable workers, we mentioned that I could help her out and she promptly offered me a job on the spot.
The next day I showed up and discovered that the dogs were in horrible circumstances, with little food and water and covered in ticks. One dog literally died in my arms as I tried to give it some water and as Mrs. Jones pulled ticks off of the other dogs.
Seeing the situation and the hopelessness of being able to do anything, I never went back, but later that week, the local television news showed up and broadcast for all the city to see that the authorities had served notice on Mrs. Jones and had come to take her dogs away. The city viewed her as a crazy lady that didn’t care about what she had done to these dogs. But I saw something different.
And that’s what I learned from my strange one-day job. I learned that Mrs. Jones really did care about those dogs. She wanted to help and not let them suffer as they wandered the desert areas of hot Tucson. She meant well, but because so few took her seriously, she was unable to provide the care she wanted to.
If she would have looked like a rich Eastern-establishment family member, people would have treated her decently and offered her their services. As it was, they ignored her and treated her like a crazy woman. And maybe she was a little off, but not nearly as much as the news made her out to be.
I learned that appearances can be very deceiving. As Disney’s Beauty and the Beast reminds us, beauty is found within but we too often judge by what we see on the outside, and we pay a price when we do that. Instead of seeing Mrs. Jones as a lady who desired deeply to help stray dogs, the city judged her as a crazy lady who treated dogs poorly. Instead of seeing a person who had dignity (besides an abundance of resources), I saw a bag lady who only deserved my pity and handouts.
I meant well but I demeaned her because I allowed her appearance to stereotype my view of her. The city meant well, but they diminished her by assuming that she hadn’t tried hard to help those dogs.
At least Hope Jones shredded my stereotype of her quite quickly. How long does it take others to be appreciated for who they are, not what we see them as?
If you happen by this post, why not join in and participate in this blog meme? Check out Lessons from Odd Jobs, and share your own story of the strangest job you’ve ever had and what you’ve learned from it.