El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

You Are Not the Sum Total of Your Accomplishments

I was reading this article entitled: "Why Great Men like John Edwards Cheat"

It’s a great article and I think spot on as to why we see politicians cheat on their spouses.  Of course, it begs the question, who says John Edwards is "Great"… but I digress.

­In the course of reading this article I keep hearing my pastor, Fr. Vega, give variations on his favorite sermon: "You are not your job.  You are not a doctor, lawyer, politician.  You are not loved for your accomplishments.  You are you.  Be you, fully you and only you.  Know you are loved as you are."

The measure of how often and how far we are as a society from this ideal is revealed in the quantity of people who are miserable in their jobs, dead, bored, unhappy, yearning for something better, more meaningful, more important, more in line with what they think they deserve.  Sometimes it just takes someone to tell them them how meaningful they and their job really are.

I was visiting a cracker manufacturing plant for a local trade organization a while back, writing an article on products made in Puerto Rico.  My intent is always to always get a human angle on the thing, find a compelling story, simple and touching.  I surprised one of the cracker inspectors by asking him what the best part of his job was.  He looked a little confused, irritated, and put out by the question, like, what the hell do you mean, "best part.  It’s hot as hell in here and I’m looking at stupid crackers all day.  I’m a trained monkey."

"No, I mean, do you have kids?"

"Yes," he answered, "three boys."

"Oh, I bet they love what you do.  What are their favorite crackers or cookies?"  A smile cracked his face.  "They love the florecitas and -"  And on he went through the different products.

"My kids eat these too.  They love them," I replied. These simple adulations I think caused him to reconsider his position, his job, maybe himself.  I wasn’t telling him he was the greatest cookie inspector in the world or that being a cookie inspector was going to get him a mansion in the hills.  No, I simply reminded him of how he impacted and touched others in a meaningful way.  There was something of value in being a cookie inspector, and better yet, there were people who loved him for it – simple and honest.

When I was commanding an Army unit, a shower, laundry, and sewing quartermaster company of 120 or so soldiers, I was always combating this tendency.  "What do you do," someone would ask a solder. 

"We are in direct support of the infantry," they would respond.  If further questions were asked, they would reluctantly admit, that yeah, it was a laundry and shower unit, but that we had powerful weapons.  I, myself, was guilty of this too.  You can see people’s inward snicker when they find out you are a shower and laundry unit.  Cue Korean dry-cleaning jokes, how they want their clothes folded, starched, etc.

The basic problem is this: we don’t really respect ourselves and what we do.  With pride, I tried to say, "I wash clothes for and shower the hard fighting combat troops of the infantry.  You have never seen gratitude until you’ve taken a miserable son-of-a-bitch covered from head to toe in dust and grime and gotten him a hot shower and clean clothes."  In that moment, there are no laundry jokes, no snickers about sewing machines and fashion shows.  He knows how much it means to him, and you know it from the humble thank you.  They all thank you, with deep respect – every last one – for a simple shower.

And personally, even though I’m staring down the barrel of 40, I still have to do intern level tech support such as: crawling under desks, messing with cabling in server closets, and telling people how to use Outlook.  Sometimes it’s damn humiliating.  There have been times when, I overhear the following: "El muchacho está aquí ahora mismo y está bregando con eso."  "The boy (unimportant technician not worthy of having a name) is here now dealing with it."  When did I become the "boy" or the "tech" or some other easily replaceable low level drone?  I have a name, damnit.

But then I remember – because I have learned this lesson many times – and because I write it down for myself in this blog to read later, that I am more than my job, or what I do.  In that moment when I am helping a person, I know that there is nothing more important.  If it was not for me, they would not have email, or a workstation, or an internet connection.  In that moment, I am doing something for them, only for them.  If they are not grateful, and they never are, it smarts, but I know of some truths to which they may not be privy.  I smile an inward smile knowing that I have helped someone. They had a need and I fulfilled it.

I am not my job, but a servant  We would do well to remember that we are all servants.  To serve is divinity itself.

4 Comments

  1. I do IT support and I often make sure that people know how much we do for them by the simple gesture of going away on holiday:)
    That way I get a rest, and the rest of the building learns why I need it.

  2. They just end up calling or emailing me. I need one of those cabins in the woods like you have. I came close this summer, visiting a small Island in Lake Michigan called Mackinac. No cars and a slow pace… but the damn hotel had wifi. sigh, it’s everywhere.

  3. With a big enough dish (they’re easy to make you know) you can probably find a wifi. Myself, I’ve got a cellphone with coverage nearly across the globe that I can use as a modem.

    My grandma’s cabin though? No electricity for miles 😀
    Last time I brought my small 12″ iBook, and all I did was back stuff up, so at the end of the stay I just watched porn until the batteries went out. You wouldn’t get a whole night in Paris with that.

  4. Hehe, you’re a hoot. 🙂

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