Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Collar Color

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let him rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all creatures that move along the ground (Genesis 1:26).

I made up my mind early on that I wanted to work in air conditioning. By that I mean in an air-conditioned environment, cool rooms, carpeted floors. Perhaps some adult contemporary radio playing quietly overhead.

My first job was in a warehouse that manufactured gaskets. My best friend’s Dad owned the company and we were given summer jobs. Did I mention it was summer . . . in a warehouse? I spent a fair amount of time cataloging metal dies that were used on the machines that cut the gaskets. There were days when I actually operated the machinery that did the gasket cutting. I placed the large sheet of material in the press, placed the die over the material, and then hit the buttons that made the press push the die into the material and presto – a gasket!

I punched a clock in the morning and in the afternoon. I ate my lunch from a paper sack. I drenched my t-shirts as the summer days wore on. I was working.

And all the while I was keenly aware of the door near the time clock that went to the office area; the air-conditioned office area. Those cool rooms were sometimes empty for a full hour at noon while people went out to lunch. The walls were void of the grey metallic time clocks. That looked good to me. I probably wouldn’t be manufacturing gaskets, but wherever I happened to be, I’d be working in the air-conditioning. No question about it.

Somewhere along the way I picked up designations that separated the sweltering warehouse from the air-conditioned offices: White Collar and Blue collar.

And on the day I learned to think about work in these terms, the devil was pleased.

These terms delight Satan because they can shape the way we think about people. There’s a subtle superiority, a hint of disdain. It runs both ways. White collar people can think this way about blue collar workers, and blue collar workers can be equally disdainful of the white collar crowd.

But not only does this kind of thinking distort how we look at people, it distorts the very nature of work itself. Some jobs become “less than.” Other jobs are dismissed as “posh.” Stay at homes and the employed harbor jealousies for entirely opposite reasons.

In our preoccupation with the color of someone’s collar, we miss the nature of their calling. We quietly deny what God did at creation in making all people in his image and giving them work to do. As our attention shifts from collar to calling, we see that nothing is dismissed as beneath the creator’s purposes. No one is left out of the invitation to co-labor with God. God gives us a calling, and that calling trumps the nature of our daily labor and whether we wear a tie or bib overalls.

You may cross paths with someone today whose work is very different from your own. Practice ignoring the collar and dignifying their calling.

Creator God, you made us in your image and you gave us work to do. Forgive us for the superficial ways we view each other and our shallow understanding of the different jobs that we do. Remind us all of our common calling and empower us to live out the calling you’ve given us in the particular setting of our daily work. Amen.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Thanks for this, Mark. Your blog is good for my soul. And today you reminded me of how thankful I am for my "blue collar" heritage, though I now live in the land of the hedge funds.

I so appreciate your words.

Craig Higgins (Mercer 83)