Tag Archives: work ethic

The Cop, The Pastor, And The Working Man.

By: Chris Warren.

Last weekend at a family gathering, I had a very nice talk with an uncle I haven’t seen in a while. After serving in the US Army he began his career as a Chicago police officer and ultimately became a police chaplain. He retired many years ago but never really stopped working. Well into his 70s, he spends most of his days as civilian hospital chaplain. The reasons he gave as to why were surprising, and we comparative youngsters would benefit from (here comes the pun) the arresting wisdom of the way he’s lived his life.

To hear uncle Rex explain it, he does not while his days playing golf or gardening or collecting things. He has no hobbies and most of his leisure time is spent with his wife (my aunt) and their grandchildren. My uncle put on his uniform and reported for duty every day without fail, and the odd hours cops often work never left much time for diversions. When he retired from the police force, the idea of doing things that didn’t need to be done, or doing something solely for enjoyment, was an anomaly to him. He liked working and did not know anything else; why not just keep at it?

He was always very religious and involved with the church, so moving into ministry was not a big jump for him. Uncle Rex is the guy who always leads the family in prayers at celebrations, baptisms, holidays, weddings, funerals. He is the guy who always calls or visits when someone is sick. He is more than anyone else the unofficial family pastor.

Uncle Rex has ministered to police officers, fire fighters, crime victims, accident victims, the terminally ill, medical staff, junkies, drunks, criminals, the rich, the homeless, hookers, anyone and everyone who crossed his path seeking solace in God. Most of these people just had something devastating happen to them or someone they love. He gravitated towards the church not only because of his faith, but also because a sense of duty that strong cannot be contained behind a patrolman’s  badge.working cop badge

I’m glad my uncle found fulfillment in his retirement, although technically it’s not “retirement” if it means still going to a job every day. Very few people would deliberately choose the same path. He’s one of the lucky ones who doesn’t need the money. Everyone else I know still working past retirement age does it because they have to. Due to the bad economy, bad personal decisions, bad luck, whatever, the trend is going to escalate. I have friends & family who are at a point in their careers where it’s mathematically impossible for them to retire on time unless they win the lottery or score a six-figure raise.

Retiring for real is an option fewer and fewer people have anymore. It can be seen in our everyday routines: Next time you’re out, notice how a disproportionate number of fast food and retail employees look like they should be at home entertaining grandchildren. Unfortunately, there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel for those still trapped working into their sixties and beyond. To again bring up the absolute truth of arithmetic, anyone who has not built up a meaningful nest egg by age 55-60 will either never truly retire or retire to a poor standard of living.

To uncle Rex, working is an identity, a statement, and a belief all rolled into one. In his world a job is greater than the sum of its parts and isn’t only about money. If all that mattered was the number of zeroes on a paycheck, uncle Rex would have never become a cop, or a chaplain. This man of faith, duty, and honor has already put in his time and has nothing left to prove, yet he is still out there working for what he knows in his heart is good and right. The way the world is going, he may have to start tending to the spiritual needs of hopeless senior citizens for whom working is a practical necessity that defers their well deserved rest from a lifetime of a job well done.

Career Objective: Make It To Retirement With A Smile On My Face.

By: Chris Warren

I consider myself  to be among the lucky few who has a cool job that is engaging and interesting. A large majority of the time I like what I do, with occasional screw this! moments sprinkled in to remind me that it may be cool but it’s hardly paradise. I think I must have won some cosmic occupational lottery because for my whole life I’ve always seemed to land in nifty jobs as if by accident. Even through high school and college I managed to earn a buck without getting involved with the drudgery of fast food or retail.

51NKZtwI2FL._SY445_Now I’m in that strange zone where I’m certainly not a kid but also not nearly old enough to seriously consider retiring. I’m left wondering what’s next. Or if there even is a “next.”  I would not mind doing something else, but since I’m content where I am I see no point in changing just for the sake of change. I’ve asked the self-analyzing question: If I looked into a crystal ball and saw myself retiring from the job I’m doing now, would the vision be depressing or comforting? Am I ok with this for the rest of my career?

The short answer is yes, I’m ok with it. I still wonder though, is there anything better out there? Is this as good as it gets? I’ve decided not to beat the hell out of myself trying to resolve a question of circular logic. In theory, there is always something better, somewhere. It’s more worthwhile to focus on what’s right and positive about the job I already have.

It’s important to explain that being happy with where I am and being complacent and unmotivated to move forward are not the same thing. There was a period in my distant past where I was in a job that was respectable but well beneath my potential. I stayed there way too long, bullshitting myself that it was good enough. I managed to get out of that trap relatively unharmed and took a lesson with me: Be grateful for what you have but don’t ever assume it’s the end of the line.

Being surrounded by family and friends who are in jobs that are soulless and devoid of any feeling of a higher purpose, on top of paying barely enough to make it worth showing up every day, gives contrast to my own life and blunts the effects of my screw this! days. The workplace headaches I deal with are mild by comparison, and at least at the end of it all I receive a decent paycheck for my hassles. There may be something better, somewhere, but there is also something worse. Being far from the bottom is more important than being close to the top.

I used to have a coworker who was technically competent but by a very large margin had absolutely the worst attitude of anyone I’ve ever worked with. He could not go five minutes without prattling about how unfairly he was treated, had a lame excuse for everything, constantly argued with the boss, thought the whole company was plotting against him, blah, blah, blah. I spent a year trying to be his buddy: Reaching out, having man-to-man talks, pushing him towards a better path. It was a complete waste of my effort. He was officially fired for absenteeism, but the real deal was that management and pretty much everyone else, including me, was far beyond fed up with the pouting crybaby. Your approach to your job has more influence over your career path than everything else combined. Skills can be learned but attitude can only come from within.

No one should allow their career success to be defined solely by how many promotions and raises they can collect before they retire. It’s more meaningful and less stressful to show up every morning believing that every day is a good day, but some days will not be as good as others. I am, on the whole, a happy employee. I flatly refuse to let myself become the guy who bitches about everything. When I reach a point where I don’t feel I can go any further in the job I have, the time to move on will become self-evident.