My pension account has dropped 17% or $70,000 this year. I’m paying for health insurance for one of my children, college tuition for another, and car insurance for all my children. I have some assets, but who wants to buy 2 tenths of an acre at Junaluska if you can’t get a loan to build a house. We don’t have a home. I’ve kept thinking that we would eventually get everybody out on their own and then afford to build something. Fat chance right now. I guess we can live at Cindy’s mother’s place if things go completely south. I’m frightened. Retirement is at least 12-15 years away, but how long will it take for the markets to rebound? I’ve already had one consultation with a pastor who was thinking that he wanted to retire this year, but doesn’t want to now. What am I/we going to do? I think I/we better be doing things for intrinsic rather than extrinsic reward.
Many of you have read Rick Warren’s, The Purpose Driven Life, whether you agree with its overt Calvinism or not. One of its propositions is that we humans that are made in the image of our Creator should enjoy creating. However, many people hardly know what their niche is in life in general, much less what their calling is when it comes to vocation. We slide from job to job hopefully making enough to get by or better, and don’t work for the job but for the paycheck. College students graduate with a degree and if they weren’t fortunate enough to be in a co-op program their job chances are scary. Many end up doing anything, which very often has nothing to do with their college majors. We don’t give teenagers many opportunities to apprentice anymore. Mentoring or shadowing someone in their career is possible, but finding a job in that desired field can be very difficult. There are too many financial and legal liability hurdles that keep it from happening, so we end up hoping that our kids have some inkling, without any experience to back it up, what they want to do before they go to college, and that their subsequent degree will actually get them a job.
Thank God for technical schools, universities and lifelong learning opportunities that have a real job goals in mind. I’m not trying to squelch the grand gift that a liberal arts education provides, but I’ve seen too many young adults get degrees and have the ability to excel in “Trivial Pursuit,” yet wind up in a job that wasn’t at all related to their college course work. I’m for apprenticeships that help people fine-tune their options before they go to college or while they are there. I have a great friend, Ovyind Hellieson, who lives in Norway who continually applauds his country’s compulsory 2 years of government service that each young adult has to pursue after high school. He says that it helps young adults, including his own children, clarify their interests and goals. I like the public service idea: Peace Corps, Teacher Cadet programs or the like, to help bring maturity and offer a sense of apprenticeship.
My Dad was in C.C.C.’s in the 1930’s. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a way for lads without jobs to learn skills, discipline, and earn money to send home during the Great Depression. The C.C.C.’s gave my Dad dignity and skills at a time when he could have been lost to abject poverty. Plus the C.C.C.’s and the W.P.A. created some of the most wonderful projects that are still enjoyed today. They accomplished something and took pride in the result.
Many people today who are either youth without a job or adults down-sized out of a job because of the economy are facing another kind of depression because they work hard for years for a company or for a degree and have little to show for it. We have to do something about this! Listen to John Haughey’s words in his book, The Conspiracy of God: “In one of George Moore’s novels, he tells of Irish peasants in the Depression who were set to work building roads. For a time everything went wonderfully. The men were glad to have jobs, and sang songs as they worked. But after a while they discovered that the roads they were building led nowhere, expired in peat bogs or simply ended. As that truth gradually dawned upon them, they grew listless and stopped singing. In the words of the novelist: ‘The roads to nowhere are difficult to build. For a man to work well and to sing as he works, there must be an end in view.’” Our end-view is to work for God our Creator. I pray that what I’m doing matters to God and neighbor. That’s reward enough.