When I was applying for jobs in my younger days, I disliked the part about “Your Work History.” I didn’t know whether to record “Paper Route.” Some of the jobs I had later didn’t sound all that impressive, either. Some applications even had a section asking more about my previous work experiences and my “vocational goals.” Yich!
When I finally had finished my training to be a teacher and was looking for a job in that area of specialization (high school), I had just one of those “Work History” sections to fill out. I was living in Illinois and applying for a job in British Columbia where no one knew me, so I decided I’d just be myself on the application; I didn’t think I’d get the job without connections anyway.
So I wrote down my history:
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper,
a pirate, a poet,
a pawn, and a king.
I was hoping the people reading the application liked Frank Sinatra singing “That’s Life.” [For younger readers, Michael Bublé sings as Frankified version of the same song.] Apparently, they did know the song. One of the administrators called me from Surrey, B.C., and did a short interview in which he asked, “OK, can you ever be serious?” That sounded great, so I summoned my sober voice and said, “Of course, I’m a deeply principled person.” Which was true, in a comedic sort of way.
I got the job and it turned out that my “Work History” helped a lot, I was told later by a member of the Board of Directors. If I had not been a puppet or a king, I had had many and varied work experiences. Here is a list: I had worked in a vegetable canning company, an iron foundry, driven a forklift in a warehouse, worked on an assembly line making cabinets for institutions, and driven straight truck and semi.
Someone on that Board of Directors understood that these varied experiences would make me a better teacher. I suspect that perhaps some of the Board members had also had a number of jobs in various fields of employment and knew that they all contributed to the subsequent job position.
For me, I didn’t think that I had finally arrived at my true calling. In my training, I had learned that any legitimate vocation (one can hardly consider cocaine dealing as legitimate, for example) was honourable. Later I read that famous religious leaders like Martin Luther had considered barrel-making, woodwork and beer brewing as godly occupations if pursued with the intent to serve God and neighbours.
At 56 years old I had become “superannuated” by my employer, to put it gently. I was able to teach part-time after that in areas out of my specialization. And at about 60 years old, I became a farmer, raising first two, and then three and now five Dexter cows. I bought a little tractor, a 1967 Massey 35 and am accumulating small or old attachments for the old reliable clunker.
About the time of retirement from teaching, I also began working with people in their 70s and 80s: all volunteer work. This has continued and expanded; I play piano and lead a sing-a-long at the local old-age home.
Which of these jobs is my “true calling?” The answer is “all of these and more!” Vocation includes a “calling” to be spouse, friend and neighbour, perhaps the most important ones of all. The Christian Labour Association of Canada is based upon Biblical principles that recognize that we have many callings, but that all involve service to God and neighbour. May you also find meaning in all of your different vocations.
That’s life (that’s life), that’s what all the people say
You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June
I said that’s life (that’s life), and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
‘cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around
–“That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
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