Friday, July 21, 2006

21st Century Job

Sadly, we never know when misfortune will affect our very intimate lives. Sometimes the nature of man can be cruel. Maybe at some point in your life, You have been driving down the highway of life, just cruising....then BUMP! Everything changes... Consider this modern day scenario:

Enter, model husband, father and provider!

Pillar of the community, great friends, and caring neighbors. Beautiful wife, Good Mother, terrific children! You are well respected in your community and above all, you attend church quite regularly and pay your tithes each week. You have an excellent career with a good income and best of all, You live the American Dream..."Money in the Bank!!!

Your life is running smooth, no conflicts, except the usual minor everyday minor conflicts and mishaps that occur in most families. God has blessed you with abundance, nice home in the suburbs, two SUV's, a Harley in the garage. Life is Great! You have given your family a strong sense of security and everyone glows with an aura of good fortune!

You are well known as the icon of hospitality, throwing lavish dinner parties, barbecues, inviting your friends and neighbors over for steaks on the barbie, grilled shrimp, kegs of beer. The guys all gather at your house to watch the game on your Big Screen TV. You're known to friends, family and colleagues as the "Refuge From The Storm", coming to the rescue of your friends and family in need, such as your best friend, recently recovering from surgery and out of work.

He couldn't return to work until the doctor released him, so you give him some cash to tie him over, and tell him not to worry about repaying, that it's a gift! Another friend, who just landed a terrific job in the IT industry, hits you up for a loan, to keep afloat, while he waits for his first paycheck! Your sister, recently widowed, who never worked outside the home, and has been swamped with medical bills, funeral expenses, asks to borrow a few thousand....and of course, its your sister, you can't refuse!

Your phone is always ringing off the hook, friends are always dropping in on you, and sometimes you feel if you had only five minutes alone, in silence, you would be blessed among men! You try to screen your calls, but find that no longer works, because...THEY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!

Deep down, you are not a loner, you love the company. You know that God has blessed you and you live by his laws, and have brought your children up likewise. Then all of a sudden, without warning, you hit a pothole of misfortune! You wake up, just like any other day, same routine, quick shower, quick glance at the weather on the tube, grab a cup of coffee, kiss the wife, kids...out the door and head off to your place of work.

You think about the week ahead, your projects at the job, the honey-do list the wife gave, perhaps a family outing you're trying to plan....traffic is horrible, as usual! You arrive at work and before you can even get through the door, your boss calls you in the office. He begins the conversation by stating "This has nothing to do with your performance and that he wished that there was something he could do but his hands were tied...continuing, he talks about changes in production, explaining due to NAFTA or some other lame excuse, your job has been other words, you have been canned!

Before you have time to absorb what was said, he continues talking, now apologetically, assuring you that this decision was difficult to make, and that you will receive severance pay and a letter of reference. You sit there for a moment, speechless, shocked, and slowly get up and walk out of his office.

This is not the way to start the week, you are thinking...and you proceed to clean out your locker, desk and leave the building, extremely confused, yet trying to relate to the last 15 minutes... "15 years I have worked for that man, and in 15 minutes, he takes away my livelihood, my sustenance, my house payment, car payment, utilities and the food that is needed to feed to my family, this is the worst day of my life.

Has he forgotten all of the times that I have stayed over to ensure production quota's were met, due to manufacturing problems that were out of my control? Does he remember that I am the one that postponed my vacation to start-up a new contract? Nope, this is definately not my day, month...or year!!! You are driving home, still faced with commuting traffic, and you realize that you are getting closer to home.

You're now confronted with facing the family, wondering how do you break the news to your "Shopaholic" wife, and your two children that look forward to their weekly allowance to splurge on DVD's, Ipods, Mickey D's, and whatever else they can find to do with their money? You feel a sense of gloom and dread cover you. Here you are, the person they rely on, the person they look up are their "ROCK"...and suddenly you are "broke" or heading down that road at a rapid rate of speed.

Your wife is doing what she usually does at that time of the day, and is startled when you come through the door... "Are you feeling ok", her first response, as you never miss work. Actually, you feel very bad, but you manage to say, "Yeah, I'm alright!" She doesn't respond, but just stands there holding the wand, with the vacuum on temporary shut-down waiting...gazing... It was simple, I was home because I was fired, but I could not find the words to just blurt it out!

No, I was not afraid of this woman holding a vacuum cleaner wand, but having never been out of work, it wasn't something that I had experience in doing. "Honey, the boss grabbed me before I could even get to my office and get a cup of coffee. My job no longer exists, I have been terminated"! She continues the gaze, shifting the wand to the other hand, placing her free hand on the back of the sofa as to brace herself..."You're kidding me, Right"? "Please, I wouldn't kid about something like that", I said. Suddenly I'm hit with what seems to be immeasurable questions .

"Why"? "Was it something you did or didn't do, Did you have a warning? "No, No, it was unavoidable, something to do with the manufacturing, NAFTA, I don't know...I'm not the only one, there was a couple of other guys that are in the same boat....still hasn't really sunk in yet?

She quickly responds, "Did you tell him that you are a dedicated employee, have been there for 15 years, and you at least deserve"..."Honey, look, this is a bad world, nothing is promised or guaranteed in the workforce", I interrupted her, "He said that I would receive severance pay, and a letter of reference", hoping that would reconcile her momentarily. "Hmmm,well God Bless him, and isn't he the generous person", she retorted sarcastically. "Great, I'm feeling really bad right now, I feel worthless as a man, and what I really need from you right now is compassion, understanding and above all love.

Things happen and I do not know the why's or wherefore's but that does not change anything, I am without a job. This means that we will have to take measures to be more conservative and handle this as a temporary setback." I continued with "It's important that everyone co-operates in this, and I really need you to be supportive of me in my decisions, ok?" She began to cry, "What are we going to do"? We have bills due, bills that will be due, and I haven't even done the grocery shopping this month"?

Reassuring her, "We'll be fine, just have faith that God will see us through this", I said. "If he leads us to it, he will get us through it". "Alright, but this is pure madness, what about the children"? This evening we will hold a family meeting, short and brief, and explain that everyone's lifestyle has to undergo current modification, due to this recent change in finances. So later that evening, after dinner, we convene in the living room, without the TV or any interruptions....and I proceed to bring my own version of the "Headline News".

They all sit staring at you blankly with their mouths open, yet not saying a word. It's almost like you are speaking to little birds that are waiting to be fed by Momma Bird...with the exception of junior, who has headphones on and is moving with the groove while you're talking! What's the use? "God giveth and he taketh away", you muster, hoping that somewhere in their upbringing they will see the spiritual behind the physical. You're thinking "He who hath ears, let them hear"!

Nonetheless, it's all in vain, because you have a 21st Century family that is caught up in the world at large, which relies on advertising, and the almighty "$$$$$". You have hope and try to convey this to the family, expressing to them that you are entering into a period of stormy seas, but you will try your best to steer and keep the boat afloat and each of them are crew members and are vital to the success of the voyage.

Still, they maintain the blank look on their face, and speechless...You call an end to the meeting and each person resumes their usual daily activities... lose your job, and immediately hit the want-ads, sign up for unemployment, and by now you are registered with 25 Temporary Agencies that have hispanic receptionists that all seem to say the same thing "I sorry, but we have no work available right now, call back tomorrow!"

You try to stay calm, but find that nobody in your home is taking your plight seriously! Nobody but your wife....who, as usual, is right on top of things immediately! You call the bank and check your account...your direct deposit was interrupted and the company has yet to deposit your severance pay!

Therefore, the checks that your wife wrote to pay the bills have bounced, leaving an overdraft of over $400 plus insufficient charges debited to your account! Suddenly, in the pit of your stomach, you feel knots...then you break out into a sweat.....slamming the phone down you rush to the closest bathroom.....only to find a locked door with rap music blaring!

It's Junior, taking one of his "Long-Hot-Showers"! You barely make it to your wife's bathroom....and spill your guts, splashing all over her soft pink frilly commode cover! You regain your composure, grabbing a cold cloth to wipe away the cold sweat pouring off your brow and here someone in another part of the house. It's your daughter, Valley Girl Vicky who has invited five of her friends over for after school snacks, raiding the fridge and piling on the sofa, watching MTV! "They did not hear a word that I said at the family powow", you're thinking as you try and regain your composure, hoping that bathroom bout was over.

Weeks go by and you have checked in with all of the Temp agencies, have applied at the local hardware store, and spoken to the Newspaper about a paper route....still nothing. THE UNIVERSE HAS COMPLETELY CUT OFF ALL COMMUNICATIONS TO YOU AND THE OUTSIDE WORLD. Your dearly beloved wife, who has begun a strange vigil of silence toward you, suffering from "Shopping Withdrawal" glares at you with an evil look, as to say....What did I ever see in you in the first place, you loser!

When you tell her to curb the daily meals down to a pot of pinto's and a pan of cornbread for the time being she softly replies sarcastically, "YOU'RE KIDDING AREN'T YOU"? You immediately become the "Private Eye" in your own home, checking the electric meter, turning off lights, unplugging appliances, monitoring the kids usage of TV's, DVD Players, Computers, X-Box, Playstations.... Your entire family, who earlier, smiled at you, hugged you, couldn't wait to see you every day....distances themselves from you. You're no longer, "Daddy" are "HIM" are no longer "Honey", you are now "HEY"!

Don't they know how you feel? You convene more and more to yourself, pondering about it all. You ask God..."Why me, Lord"? Your wife, thinking that you are shutting everyone and everything out....blares at you. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? YOU JUST CAN'T SIT HERE AND DO NOTHING! CAN'T YOU AT LEAST SAY SOMETHING...OR BETTER STILL DO SOMETHING..I DON'T CARE IF YOU HAVE TO SELL DRUGS...I NEED MONEY, WE NEED MONEY....THE KIDS NEED MONEY! Still, rather than argue, you continue in silence...pondering, searching, thinking about your life, thinking about the "ONLY" friend you have left.

No, you can't see him, he can't share a beer with you, or watch a game with you....but he's there, just a whisper away. You find yourself asking, Why me, Lord? You are confused, and can't understand why he has allowed this to happen to you and your family. A month goes by, then 8 weeks...your wife begins avoiding you, none of your previous friends are coming around, except the loser down the street, wanting to borrow a tool!

This guy never works, was born into wealth and just hangs out in the backyard always looking busy but never doing anything worthwhile! You find yourself watching what is left over at dinner, reminding the children that food is scarce, eat everything on your plate, and no snacking.

You glance at the teenage girl, reminding her to discontinue entertaining her friends until further notice. "Fridge is off-limits to non-household members"! It's now the middle of the third month since you lost your job and your daily walks, increase, sometime for hours, you walk and walk, just thinking and visit your pastor and he just tells you to have faith...things will get better.

He asks, "By the way, I know this is not the best time to ask, but we are really pushing to get this Somalia Mission off the ground by next month, do you think you could manage a few dollars by next Sunday?" You're thinking, "No, He Didn't", and reply, "I'll speak to my wife and try to manage something", you say. "Did I really say that, geez, I'm a wreck"! You're bewildered, completely bummed out and feel that you can't even afford God's Help!

No money, no job, bills are due, bank is overdrawn, car payment due last feel totally helpless, and do not have a clue as to what you will do. It's as if you have left planet earth, and are out of range of all communication with it's inhabitants. You have applied for over 40 jobs since your termination, not even a reply, nor a turn-down! You return home, disgusted, depressed and now feel the beginning pains of a headache about to happen! You notice nobody is home, not even the dog, who always barks when someone enters the backyard...Your wife's car is not in the garage.

You figure the wife has taken the Dog to the vet, maybe the kids are at friends, and the clock ticks's night and family! What's tonight? No...they can't be at church. You worry that they have taken the dog to the vet, yet adding to the outrageous bill from last month! You wonder how many other families have dogs suffering from depression? "Doggie Depression, wonder if he has any anti-depressants left"?

The phone rings and suddenly you are confronted with yet another unexpected's your wife! She gets right to the point and tells you that she is leaving you, because she can no longer tolerate your current attitude toward her and the children, in light of everything else! She has the children and YOUR dog! They have a place to stay, and "her" attorney will contact you.

You happen to look down at the phone and notice the number that she is calling from happens to be the number of the "Single, Good Looking, Best Friend that you just loaned all that money to"! You notice a folded note stuck to the fridge, and you open it! It's from her telling you that the monthly bills are paid, and she had to use all of the savings to accomplish that, so now you are really broke!

Depression has reached it's peak, not only have you lost your companion of life, but the single person that you vowed to love for the rest of your life, through sickness and in health, richer or "poorer", until you DIE!

But she has paid all of the bills to including the $600.00 Veterinarian bill, with the Christmas Savings and neglected to pay your CAR PAYMENT! You have no income, your car is about to be repossessed! But the rent is paid, electricity is on and you ...and you are ALONE with a huge MIGRAINE HEADACHE!

You go to the bathroom and open the medicine cabinet.....SHE TOOK ALL OF THE MEDICINE, even the ASPIRIN! Zero Meds, with the exception of one small plastic bottle of "MIDOL"! You think...maybe I need to get something in my stomach, yeah...hungry, you go to the kitchen and open the box of spaghetti pasta, one box of shake and bake, yes....Hamburger Helper there is hope!

You check the fridge and find the remnant of last saturday's game....about 15 hot wings, 3 Natural Lights, half gallon of tea, what appears to be greenish bologna with the edges curling inward, a quarter gallon of milk, with only 2 days left to expiration and an empty loaf of bread except for two end pieces. No Hamburger! To make matters worse, the phone rings and it's your wife's attorney inviting you to his office to discuss your new bill! CHILD SUPPORT and asks...."What would be a good day for you"? You cannot see beyond the next moment, but incoherently schedule an appointment for someday next week, which you can't even recall!

You call your best friend from childhood and get his answering machine. You leave this message of despair...COME TO MY HOME WHEN YOU GET THIS MESSAGE, WILL EXPLAIN LATER, THIS IS URGENT! You're thinking, He already Knows, EVERYBODY already knows your plight! Yes, and they even know about your wife and have known, that's usually the way it is, everybody knows but you!

You can't stay in the house, you feel like the walls are closing in on you, so you leave....just walking, not knowing where you are going. You feel like a zombie, between the worlds, neither here no are trying to backup and regroup your life, before any of this happened. It's like living in a nightmare that you cannot feel sheer madness closing in on you just keep walking, searching for an answer...down the street, maybe a block away, you come upon a street person, just standing on the corner, holding a sign, "Will Work For Food".

Your first impression is to cross over to the other side of the street to avoid this person who WANTS MONEY FROM YOU....but you just don't have the willpower to even attempt to do that. As you approach him, he appears to smile at you, and you're thinking "Ha, he's smiling because he thinks I'm going to give him some money, little does he know I HAVE NO MONEY".

"Good Afternoon, Sir, how are you today?" The tattered looking man greeted me and I managed to get a hello back to him and continued on past him. After I had strolled past him, I heard him yell at me, "God Bless You, Sir" That was the straw that broke the camel's back...I immediately turned around and walked back toward him....with a hundred thousand different emotions coursing through my broken mind at the I approached him, he still continued to smile at me and I responded to him, "What did you say"?

He said, "God Bless You, Sir"...and tears started streaming down my face and then I broke into this incredible sobbing episode...while this tattered old man took my arm and guided me toward a bus shelter and sat down with me.

For nearly an hour, I sat there pouring my heart out to this person who had no home, who had not appeared to have shaved in a month of sundays, whose clothes were tattered and torn and who was on the street begging for work just to buy food. He said to me, "Son, God loves you so much that he gave his only son that whosever shall believeth in him shall not perish but will have everlasting life".

He continued, "God has put you through a test of faith, my friend, just as he did to Job. It's not for us to wonder or second-guess why God allows things to happen to us, but we must trust that it's all necessary in his plan for our life. Look to God for your answers, not man, because everything begins and end with the good man above."

He asked me to pray with him and I bowed my head and let this old man lead the prayer and a peace came over me that reached into my heart. Afterwards, I got up and asked him to come with me to my home and share my food, which was nothing but the leftover items in the fridge. He politely declined, telling me to go home and get into the word of God and save my food. I reached into my pocket and all I had to offer him was my Grandfather's pearl handled pocket knife, and as he reached out to shake my hand, I slipped this heirloom into his. He once more, said "God Bless You, Son" and we departed.

When I arrived home, I went to my bedroom to get my bible and noticed that I had several messages on the answering machine. Ignoring the messages, I sat down in my favorite chair and opened the bible, turning to the book of Job. Immersed in reading of Job's misfortunes, I suddenly looked around me and saw my home, the pictures of my family on the mantle, and the wedding portrait of my wife.

Lowering my head, I prayed in submission to my Father in heaven, in the name of his holy son, Jesus, with all of my heart and soul. Without him, I was nothing, had nothing, and could obtain nothing worthwhile. I prayed for strength to endure the trials, courage to face my life with whatever he wanted me to have and forgiveneness of remembered and forgotten sins. My heart was full of praise to him, even in my misery, did I praise his holy name.

Time stopped for me, as I continued in the word for such a long time, reading and absorbing, praying and crying....until I closed the bible and got up to answer the phone. It was my daughter, she was crying and I could not understand what she was trying to say to me, except "We love you Daddy"!

The line suddenly went dead and immediately began to ring again. My heart jumped, thinking that it was my daughter calling me again, and it was my other best friend, from my childhood, whom I had left the message what seemed like months before. "Hi Buddy, how are ya"? My mind was in a momentary daze, where had this person been?

Surely he had heard...."Sorry, that I haven't gotten back with you but I have been out of the country. The new job has been hectic, they put me on a plane to Europe, the first week to settle a software glitch in the Belgium office and I just got back late last night. How's the family? Can't wait to see you, I brought some gifts for everyone and I have the money that you loaned me. By this time, I could barely talk to him, holding back even more tears.. He continued telling me he would stop by later, with a pizza and some beer, so we could do some catching up. Not really feeling like a beer, I half-heartedly laughed, holding back even more tears, telling him, "He'd better plan on staying for awhile, matter of fact, you better bring several "BIG PIZZA'S".

You sit for a moment, thinking about the previous phone call from your daughter, and remember to check your messages. Listening to message upon message from bill collectors, you delete them one by one, not really wanting to think about bills tonight.

A new message, with a familiar voice, it's the last person in the world that you expected to hear from...."Hey, I need you to call me when you get this message, if you can't reach me at the office, call my home, it's important"! It was my old boss and I'm thinking, "Imagine, the nerve of that guy, what on earth could he possibly have to say to me that could be more urgent than what he had already said"?

The next message was from my daughter, "Daddy, we love you and miss you". "Why haven't you called, are you alright"? Foregoing the message from my ex-boss for the time being, contemplating whether to even return the call or not, I call my friends house and my wife answers. "Hi, so glad that you finally called", she said. "The kids and I are fine, and we miss you so much", she continued. Before she could say anything else, I interrupted her, "I miss all of you too, but you left me, I am at home, and have been at home. You left me a note, remember, telling me that you were leaving me.

She started crying, "I did what I thought was best for everyone, especially the children. You were really worrying me, you changed into something that I just could not deal with, and you frightened the children. You were acting like a total stranger to us, critical of our every move in the home, insulting friends, and the children were in fear of becoming homeless and were losing their self esteem. "Your Attorney contacted me, too," I said, wondering if he was going to charge me for the appointment.

"I'm sorry, honey, but I didn't know what to do, I've been trying to think outside the box, for the welfare of the children." She replied. As much as I tried to avoid the next statement, I couldn't help myself, "So you pack up the kids and the dog and move in with MY FRIEND?" She responded, "Please don't go there, it is definately not what you think, he has not been here, he has been on the west coast and is returning this weekend." She continued explaining, "He called one day for you and after explaining to him what was going on, he offered his condo for the kids and myself to stay while you sorted everything out."

Agitated she asked, "Why, What are you implying"? Suddenly, my heart jumped! She asked again, "Hello...what exactly were you thinking"? I stammered.."Your note, remember?" "I am leaving you", I said. "And you thought... that I was carrying on with him"? Surely, after 15 years of marriage, you know me better than that," she replied. "So, you're coming home"? I asked wondering if I should call my friend to postpone his visit..."We can work through this problem,with God's help, anything is possible.", I said.

She replied, "I know, darling, the kids and I have been studying the word and praying every night that God will heal our family". It's rather late, and the children are ready for bed, we will be home in the morning". "Fine, I love you", I said. She whispered, "And we love you, too, Goodnight"!

The doorbell wrang, it was my friend, with "7 giant Pizza Extravaganza's" stacked up in front of him. "Grab these, while I get the rest of the packages from the car", he said.

In the meantime, the phone rang as I had reached the kitchen, the voice on the other end was my ex boss. "Man, you are hard to get in touch with", he said. "I've left message upon message for you and was beginning to think that you had left the country". Listening to him, I was thinking, he wasn't too far away from the truth" I had contemplated disappearing at one point.

"Look, I'm really sorry about what happened but we have had a new development in the organization and due to a merger, we have just expanded our product line and feel that you are the only person that can take on a project of this size", he said. Not wanting to be too eager, I hesitated before entering into the conversation and let him continue.... "The VIP's have given me complete autonomy in negotiating this deal with you and I am prepared to give you a substantial salary increase, an initial up-front bonus in the amount of $15,000.00, a reasonable profit margin, and a signed contract that will ensure your continued employment with this company. You don't have to give me an answer now, take the weekend to think it over and call me Sunday night with an answer. If you agree, be here Monday morning around 8AM to sign the papers and be ready to get it rolling, ok?"

"Sure, I'll give it some thought and get back with you, hey, thanks for calling", I said, feeling numb all over. My friend walked in with packages falling all over the place, "Here let me help you, what did you do, win the lottery", I asked? He replied, handing me over $2000.00 in cash, "Nah, just spent my bonus, couldn't forget my where's everyone, man I want to see their faces, when they they open these presents"! "They're over at a friends and will be returning in the morning, just spoke with the wife and told her you were coming by. They're looking forward to seeing you and hearing about your trip!" "So what's new with you, and what about that "Urgent" message on my machine"? "Yeah, that, sorry, just had a minor detour on the road of life, and needed to talk, but it's fine now! Couldn't help myself, but I said..."Man, do you ever pray"? He smiled..."Yeah, all the time, God is my Strength and my Redeemer, isn't he great"? "Yeah...he sure is, now tell me about that trip"!

© 2004 Deborah Nuckles
All Rights Reserved

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