Yesterday afternoon, however, something happened.
My boss appeared in my doorway. (I hate it when he does that.) And said, "Jennifer." (I hate it when he calls me that. Yeah, yeah. I know it's technically my name and all, but it just feels like I'm about to get in trouble.) I looked at him and smiled. He continued, "You've been summoned to a meeting tomorrow. It's no big deal. Just a status thing. You shouldn't even have to say anything."
Well that wasn't the case. At all. I had to say lots of things, answer lots of questions, and in front of a large-ish crowd of people I've never met. And the best part is that they had saved me a seat at the very front of the conference room table. I wasn't prepared for it, but I got through it. Another of life's little rites of passage. Hey, I even elicited a laugh from the room at one point. (And we all know that's my singular measure of success in life.) But those things are not the point of the story.
All of that was just to get us into the meeting.
Each of the people sitting around the table had been grilled by the city manager, excepting one - the Fire Chief. At the end of the meeting right before commencing things and letting us go, the city manager realized he hadn't put the Fire Chief on the spot yet, so as not to exclude him he said, "How about you? Why haven't you gotten any grants yet?"
I had less than nothing to do with the discussion on fire-related grant money, but since I was there, I listened.
The Fire Chief calmly smiled, obviously unshaken by the spotlight. (There was no signature nervous laughter, like that incessantly offered by yours truly.) He said, "It's not that we aren't trying. But here's why we can't and probably won't get any. One of the four requirements for receiving aid is the county unemployment rate. In that regard, we're doing just fine." To which the city manager replied, "We're right at 6%. That's going to hurt us."
(Fun fact: In actuality, our county is at 7.3% - much lower than the state average of 9.9% and the U.S. average of 9.5% for June 2010. Data courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
That's when it hit me. (And "it" usually does hit me in the most unusual of times and places.) "It" was another reminder of how blessed I am and my community is.
I work in an industry that is heavily dependent on growth. Growth is something that, in most places, came to a screeching halt as a result of the economic downturn of 2008. Our community was a hot bed of growth of residential and commercial varieties, of staggering proportions even, so when it stopped almost overnight it seemed so very dramatic. And it was. I don't mean to diminish the fact that our area has been hit hard. It's just that, in the grand scheme of things, we're actually doing quite well. (Relatively speaking.)
Okay, so what's that point again, you ask?
The point is that this time last year, I just knew I was going to be out of a job by Christmas time. By Christmas time, I just knew I'd be out of a job by May. And yet, here it is July, and I am still gainfully employed. Those thoughts were the product of a pessimistic buzz...around town, in the industry, by my boss, on every national news website.
Every time, so far, it looked like we were going to have to close our doors, a random phone call came in with a job that kept us plugging along. It has literally happened this way. I wholeheartedly believe that this has been God's direct answer to prayer, and one of the benefits of working for a good Christian man.
I could (and often do) lament the fact that I am grossly underpaid, that I haven't gotten a raise in four years, that there is almost no opportunity for me to progress in my current position, BUT (a big one even) I am also still grateful to have the job that I have. Because it is a job that I don't hate, that may only be a stepping stone in my career, that is helping me grow.
The economy/job situation is grim, I shouldn't say it isn't. But how much of it is what we think and not what we know? How much of it is something we can control and shouldn't worry about? Or that we can't control and still shouldn't worry about? How much of our whining and complaining is warranted when there are so very many others in much grimmer situations than ours?
While I understand the city manager's perspective on being "hurt" by our (relatively) good unemployment rate, I say, let's hope it stays that way. Shoot, let's hope it goes down even farther.
Let's try to see blessings for what they are -
A challenge for today: Consider something in your life that seems like an impediment, put on your rose-colored glasses, and see it as a blessing. And if you're so inclined, share it with me. It's amazing how a little perspective shift can change our entire outlook.