My first job out of college was a sanitary engineering position.
Yep, I was a custodian. There wasn’t anything else available, and believe me, I tried. So there I was, wiping down urinals at the graduate offices of the University of Arkansas. One morning, bright and early, as I was emptying a professor’s trash bin, he unexpectedly addressed me.
“GOOD MORRRR-NING,” the professor leaned forward and hollered, as if I were both hard of hearing and new to the English language.
“Good morning,” I replied.
The professor smiled and turned back to his work, clearly pleased with himself for stepping out of his comfort zone and speaking to the lowly janitor.
“I have a college degree, Doc,” I wanted to say. “In English, no less. There’s really no need to shout.”
But of course I held my tongue, quietly dusting the top of the copier, refilling the paper towel, and wheeling my squeaky cart into the hall. The sad thing is that that professor will never know who he had in his office. I could have been the next Eleanor Roosevelt or Sacajawea, the next Amelia Earhart or Mary Lou Retton, and certainly I am a valid human being with big thoughts and deep feelings, and much to offer the world. He was the one who missed out, and what a shame.
So often since that day, I’ve passed a beggar in the streets and wondered what is inside that person, hibernating. What kind of genius would, with just a little encouragement and hot coffee, come out of hiding and change the world?
And then I begin to wonder about myself. Is there more in me than I give myself credit for? Do I have a dream that is bigger than perfecting homemade bread?
Not that I would EVER look down on the homemaker. Indeed I am a proud homemaker myself, and I do make darn good bread. My husband is my first love, and my kids are my treasures, my four disciples. There is no more important “job” than serving selflessly on the home front. I get asked all the time by the female leadership in our organization how I am staying involved in the work we do. I tell them, “I love and support one of the best men on the field, and I am raising four future laborers for the harvest. I am plenty involved, I’d say.”
And yet, I think that some of us hide behind our highest calling. Whether we are out in the trenches ourselves, or baking pound cake to encourage our husbands who are in the trenches, there is a temptation to think that a life of sacrifice is our lot, and that God does not also have plans for us purely for our enjoyment. Our lives become one big martyrdom of sorts, and we press on out of principle, sure that we’ll be rewarded handsomely in Heaven.
Does not God love to see us smile?
So whatever your current status, whatever your job description, I would encourage you to look inside yourself and see whether there isn’t more in there. I did. Two years ago I met a published poet named Rachel, and the two of us became fast friends. I shared with Rachel my lifelong dream of becoming a novelist.
“One day,” I told her. “Once the kids are grown.”
Rachel urged me not to wait. “Start now!” she said. “Start today. If you were born to write, then you had better write.”
Wisely, I took Rachel’s advice, and now I have written my first novel (somebody pinch me). It was in there, after all! I just needed a little encouragement…and a LOT of hot coffee.
Am I saying that you aren’t worth enough as you are? Am I saying you have to write a novel, or become the next Pioneer Woman, to feel like your life is full? No way am I saying that. Our identities as women, and our worth as people, come from God and God alone. We all know that by now. What I am saying is that the world needs you. We need your ideas and your wit, your empathy and your art; we need your genius. Keeping what is inside of you hidden away would be robbing us the joy of knowing you, and robbing God the joy of watching you smile.
And that, my sister, would truly be a shame.
What is one of your life-long dreams?