I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things with my dear blog. It is rare that I have an experience that makes me actually write thnigs down that I want to expand upon in this forum. Yesterday, however, I had one of those experiences.
In this season of my job, I'm looking for lots of students to cmoe work at the Project for the summer. Typically, that means going to internship and job fairs at colleges. I don't particularly like doing that. It does occasionally mean that I get to speak to a college fellowship or preach at a college chapel. I do like that. Yesterday, I went to a job fair. It was unique in that it was a job fair, organized by a friend of the Project, for the homeless. This was a truly unique experience for me, one that I have to write and talk about. I don't know why it struck me so hard, but I do want to share some reflections I had after the experience:
As employers, we spend a lot of time these days trying to recruit the best and the brightest from this nation's colleges and universities. It some ways that makes sense. We want to reward those who have gone throuh the proper channels and prove to them that their academic achievements were in fact worth it. In another sense, however, it is strange that we put so much of our resources into attempting to hire those with very little life experience. We assume that on the virtue of book knowledge that people will be able to manage the various challenges that employment will throw at them. That may be true, but I was struck yesterday as I read over resume after resume that we don't make nearly as much of an effort to pursue this population of people who have actually been in the real world and that have real work experience. I met with one gentleman yesterday who had a two page resume; one page was exclusively culinary experience, one page was solely construction experience. Looking over his resume, it was obvious that this man knew how to work.
For all of these people, something had driven them into homelessness. As a potential employer, they weren't all that willing to share that information with me, but it is pretty easy to imagine; drugs, loss of work, poor financial plannnig, transience, criminal records, etc... This job fair was for many of them the pursuit of a second chance. A pursuit of grace. For tohse of us willing to listen, it was the opportunity to say to these people that their worth would not be solely determined by what they had done in the past.
In corollation to that, it reminded me of the dignity that comes with work. I very easily take my job for granted. Additionally, I take for granted the dignity that my job affords me. The dignity to pay my bills, to care for my family, to move around freely. I also thought about the power that comes with being able to give (or take away) a job from someone...
I thought about how some people can hit a bump in the road and keep on moving while others hit a bump and are completely derailed. Some of that depends on the size of the bump. Some of that depends on the condition of the car. At the risk pf stretching a metaphor too far, there are plenty of cars on the road track that are in poor condition because of situations that are completely out of their control. Those are justice issues. We have to ask why an unwed pregnancy can be completely devastating for one individual but a decade of soliciting prostitutes isn't for another.
The man I mentioned before with the page resume? I told him he was way overqualified for the positions for which we were hiring. He told me that he had heard that before, but that he simply wanted to be in a place that was more than a job. He told me that he had been blessed with so much, he just wanted to be able to bless others. In my mind I was thinking "You? You Mr. Homeless guy have been blessed with so much? You want to give back? " Throughout the fair I was confronted by a generosity of spirit that confounded me. Though people were definitely interested in finding something that would help them get backon their feet, they were attracted to the Project because we serve others and they wanted to be apart of that. Unreal. In the midst of my relative comfort, I can become so self-focused, yet these folks with very little were thinking of ways that they could give back. I truly wonder at times whether or not I understand life at all.
There's much more I could say about this experience. I'm still processing it to a large extent. Instead of saying anymore though, I'd like to direct your attention to my friend's website. He organized the job fair. You can see it here. He's doing a great thing.