Labor Day has become a time of reflection for me. Five years ago at this time I was unemployed.
I began working full time the day I graduated from high school nearly 50 years ago. While I attended college the hours were cut back to less than 40 but since then my work week has always been 50 hours or more; usually quite a few more.
Through those years, I had good bosses. Most were excellent.
In my late 40s I began to feel a tug to put my skills to work for a non-profit organization, preferably a Christian ministry. When I investigated non-profit opportunities, however, I found that the jobs for which I qualified paid significantly less than I was earning.
Then I was offered a position with a secular non-profit that matched my earnings and offered some additional perks. A few months after I accepted the job, however, I discovered my streak of good bosses had ended.
I was shocked at how badly some employees including myself were treated but I loved what I was doing and felt chained to the position by the golden handcuffs of good pay and benefits.
After the third year the resulting stress was affecting my emotional and physical health.
I visited with a friend in a respected local Christian ministry who offered me a job with his organization. The catch the pay was considerably less than I was earning and the perks far fewer.
My wife and I discussed it and prayed about it but I didn't feel I could take that kind of pay cut at that point in my life.
Conditions at work continued to deteriorate but opportunities for a man approaching 60 were few. Finally, I found a job in a similar pay range nearly 200 miles away. On the second day at the new job I discovered that in my desperation I had not done sufficient due diligence.
Until now a tenacious worker, I resigned in less than four weeks but felt blessed to have secured another job. The new job did not require a move.
A few weeks later I discovered that I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
My wife and I prayed harder than ever but working conditions grew worse. I was working a minimum of 12 hours a day and could do nothing right for my boss.
When my boss ordered me to take on additional duties that would have cheated my sales staff out of a significant chunk of commission, I resisted.
"If this isn't illegal," I said, "it's unethical."
He replied, "In business you do what you have to do."
My wife and I did more discussing and more praying. A week earlier I had a doctor's appointment and, even though I was on two meds for hypertension, my blood pressure was dangerously high. We decided I would have to resign if I wanted to live long enough to retire.
I was unemployed for four months that summer. There were a number of job interviews and a few offers, none of which would have been good long term fits.
Still unemployed at Labor Day, I kicked my search into high gear. Unaware of any openings there, I sent my resume to two non-profit organizations I deeply respect. A few days later I heard from the head of The Salvation Army in Des Moines and learned they had been looking for a new development director since April.
I was thrilled to be offered the position. And I was humbled when I saw the compensation offer it was exactly what I had been offered by my friend's organization three years earlier.
Though I had told God I wanted to work for a Christian ministry, I couldn't release myself from those golden handcuffs. He had to expose me to some very unpleasant experiences to help me learn to trust Him for our needs.
It will soon be five years since I went to work for The Salvation Army in Des Moines as development and communications director. It has been an excellent move in many ways.
This Labor Day I have two great bosses the commanding officer here in Des Moines and The Boss who helped me learn to listen to and trust Him.