Saturday, April 24, 2010

When Atlas Shrugged

My last post described my most exciting job yet.  Yet, I've quit....

They wanted me 24 hours a day for eight days straight at a rate of $4.79/hour.  I accepted that initially because I wanted to do something meaningful and because I was certain that the company's resources were stretched sufficiently to warrant lousy/beginner pay.

Now, in all fairness, I really enjoyed the job.  I enjoyed the students and I really enjoyed the staff.  There was never a boring moment.  Last week I spent 24 hours on the run with three students who'd decided to leave the program.  That excursion included a helicopter ride.  An eight day shift simply few by!

During the course of the week I had a surprisingly candid conversation with the owner, who bragged about the huge percentage of the revenue he puts in his own pocket.  I was a bit disillusioned because, naively, I thought he was in it for the youth, as I was.  Instead he made it plain that he was in it for the money.  This is not to say he isn't good at what he does, he's great!  Still as the week wore on it became more and more clear that he makes all of the decisions and thinks he deserves all of the rewards.  Toward the end of the week I discovered that a field staff, who is an amazing asset to the company, who is skilled, responsible and talented, and who has served for 18 months was being paid the exact same amount as a rookie like me.  Additionally, I learned that a head staff, in charge of a camp, is paid, $0.33 more per hour than I was.  This is a clear statement of company priority and finished me off.

I went in at the end of my shift and resigned.  Here is a tremendous program that is making a difference in the lives of some great young people.  A program whose primary focus is developing integrity in the lives of it's students, but which manifests little integrity with it's employees at all.  When I pointed out my grievance I was told that they were not pleased to have their staff comparing compensation packages.  I wonder why?

I've decided to get clear out to the youth correction/rehabilitation business.  There's no money in it.  I can get a full time job at the Detention Center for which they'll pay me $11.00 an hour.  Or I can deliver packages for UPS for $27.00 an hour.  What would you do?  What is wrong with this picture?

Now all of this begs another question.  One I don't have the answer for?  "Where should the line be drawn between self and service?  I went in to that last job hoping for personal growth as well as monetary income.  While there I did very well with regard to my personal issues.  I even thought that my recovery was being strengthened and facilitated by my experiences.

I have always been taught and even proved that when I get caught up in my selfish, self defeating behaviors that the best thing I can do is to focus on being of service to others.  On the mountain I was doing just that.  Every waking moment and much of the night was spent in selflessly serving others.  I didn't have time to think of myself.  Even my choice to quit was primarily motivated by my regard for my younger colleagues who are being so grossly taken advantage of.  I expected to come home from that experience better and more fulfilled.  Instead, I found I had just put myself on the shelf for a couple of months and have returned to find myself unchanged having done little more than collect a bit of dust.

What was the problem factor?  Is it the money?  Does money destroy service?  If I had taught Seminary would the money have tainted the service?  I'm confused by what I'm feeling.

Last week I spent in Las Vegas painting my daughter's house.  It was a good thing.  I little tough because my own house is a wreck and could have used that effort.  I returned to a plan by the family to spend the next two weekends painting my mother-in-law's house.  I have always been gung ho about such projects knowing in my heart that what goes around comes around and that bread I cast upon the water would return in abundance.  But today I feel like John Galt.  I've carried too much for too long and can no longer bear it up.  The world wants all it can get from me while giving as little as possible in return.  I know God is not like that.  There may be my answer.  My recent employer has taken God out of the equation and put money in.  I remember a time when my daughter befriended a little old neighbor lady.  They spent a lot of joyous times together.  Then the lady decided to hire my daughter to attend to her needs.  What had been joyful service quickly turned into resentful drudgery.  The pleasant rewards of friendship and service were replaced by unsatisfying stinginess, expectations, demands, inequality, reluctance and eventually separation.  Must money always spoil things?

Like so many in Ayn Rand's amazing book, Atlas Shrugged, I'm no longer willing to bring my talent to the business world without being adequately compensated for it.  More and more the world wants all it can get from me.  That would be okay if it were not for the fact that more often than not, someone, behind the scenes, is benefiting financially, while claiming to be serving the critical needs of the less fortunate.  People are getting rich in the human services "industry".  Under the guise of meeting serious needs, and on the backs of sincere and willing laborers, they pad their pockets and meet far fewer needs than they might.  I got my start in the "industry" as a volunteer.  I got sucked in to doing it professionally because I thought it would be satisfying to make a difference full time.  It should be.  It isn't.  In fact, I see a measure of perpetuation built into both government and private human services programs.  A subtle effort to keep themselves in business rather than working themselves out of a job.  It is about the money.

So, for now, you can call me John Galt.  You'll find me about doing good.  You'll find me this weekend, happily helping paint Mom's house, for free.  You'll find me at the Detention Center on Sunday teaching the kids about Jesus Christ and about how He can help them change.  If one day, there are no kids to serve there, I'll be the happiest man around.  Besides, I always said my volunteer job at the Center pays better than my employed one - which is true.... and it'll keep on paying long after those prison walls have served their purpose.

As for money?  I'll have to earn that somewhere.  I just hope I can find a place to earn it where it won't pollute the things that matter more than money.


Aleen said...

Amen to your comments and observations here, Brother! Because I let my teaching certification lapse while raising my seven children, and didn't renew it before the Praxis test became required; it became increasingly complicated to renew it to teach in public schools. . . I know that I am a better teacher than many that have graduated recently with their papers in order. However, I only make $60 per day as a B.S. degree "guest teacher" (fancy title for substitute--it hasn't changed problem students' behaviors, though).

When I did finally have everything in order and submitted it to my state education office, they "lost it in scanning. . . " In the meantime my kids had rearranged my "office" and I haven't found some of the records from various universities. It makes me wonder if Father is telling me something. . . I know that the constant grading of students' papers may have become a challenge and stressor for me.

I've studied holistic health for 30to 35 years and know that I can mentor and encourage many desiring improved health. I do it frequently, but only occasionally it is appreciated and valued. . . There is little opportunity to earn income at it, though; in spite of improving the health and well being of others. The soft drink companies, big "pharma" industry, and greedy promotors of unhealthy "foods," are raking in huge profits at the expense of our nation's health. There is little justice and monetary reward for second mile service and work in these fields.

You truly have a talent for expressing yourself in writing, Candleman. . . You said exactly what I've felt for some time. I do love serving others and making a difference in the world, but it is frustrating to see others make more money than they deserve and know that greed drives their goals. Christ, our exemplar and guide shows us the way. . . Through Him we can have peace and eternal life with with Heavenly Father.

Love Life and Learning said...

I have been blessed recently with a review of the following New Testament accounts.

Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 19:1-9


"And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth."

"Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest...."

"Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold."

Two rich men--two directions:

(1)"He sought to see Jesus who he was."

(2)"What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

Alex said...

Alex said...

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