After two years of unemployment, my friend Mark finally landed a sales job. It’s not exactly what he had in mind as a seasoned management professional, age 52, but after dozens of leads and rejections, this appeared to be the only game in town.
I usually run into Mark when I hit the local Starbucks before work. We often chat about the ups and downs of his job search. In spite of the looming insecurity, he has a fantastic attitude. Even in his lowest moments, he sounds upbeat.
“I know God’s already worked it out for me,” he’ll say, as we sip our toasty beverages.
I sometimes offer to pray for him, in hopes that my meager pleas to the Lord on High will help move the dial in some small way.
“How’d it go?” I asked the other day, after his latest job interview.
He paused, then elaborated. “The guy who interviewed me said the perfect candidate was someone over 50 years old who had been kicked to the curb a few times.”
We looked at each other and laughed.
“Well, that pretty much describes both of us,” I said.
Actually, I know plenty of people who would qualify, with flying colors.
“So I took it,” he said. “The job, I mean.”
“Great!” I exclaimed, imagining the relief, and gave a secret high-five to God. Except that Mark didn’t seem to be celebrating so much. I probed. “Uh, so, what kind of company is it?”
Mark winced a little, and then dropped the bomb. “I’m selling industrial brooms.”
Okay, well, brooms—that’s not so bad, is it? People use industrial brooms all the time! Yes, in factory floors and construction sites, right? How else would they keep the place clean? Working creates such a mess! Praise God for industrial strength brooms!
I was trying hard to put a spiritually positive spin on the situation.
The thing is, Mark is a seasoned, respectable sales manager with brand-name industry experience. He’s used to managing an entire sales force, and now he’s selling brooms to janitors.
“I’m having trouble getting over my pride,” he confided with a sagging spirit. “Yet this is what God has put before me.”
Honestly, I can understand his deflated expectations. How do you plug your heart and soul into a job that you are just not into, one that is so far removed from what you imagined for yourself, clearly underutilizing your gifts and capabilities?
Later, I went online and looked at the company website and took note of how sturdy those brooms looked, imagining what a great job they’d do on my garage floor: These brooms last up to five times longer than any other outdoor brush. Why? Because its stiff, coarse, durable synthetic bristles will not break or thin out as they do in commonly used bass fiber brushes.
And I thought, why can’t selling really good sweepers be a noble, high calling? Industrial sanitation is hugely important for the health and safety of a work site, requiring attention to efficiency and cleanliness. And wouldn’t it help if the broom were of superior quality, sweeping like an easy song over those shiny surfaces?
I saw Mark a couple weeks later. “I sold my first broom,” he said with a smirk. He raised his fist in a mock victory pose. “Who-hoo!”
Sometimes God lifts you up on high, and other times he kicks you to the curb to commune with the dust and sand. Some say God is teaching us humility. Others say, it is what it is—the economy, luck or timing—and you do your best with what you've got. You practice perserverance.
Either way, there is always an opportunity to find the redemptive in the drudgery, the positive attributes in the most menial tasks. It's there, if you look hard enough.
Next time you find yourself cast down into the dust, instead of wallowing in it, why not grab a good broom and start sweeping up the place?
Post by J.B. Wood.