I’m beginning to understand something that in hind sight seems kind of obvious. The strength of a product, institution, or service is dependant on the standards imposed upon it, the support it receives, and the performance of the worker. That seems kind of obvious, but I think it’s something we often ignore. For example, in the workplace workers will often only aspire to the standard they are held to by their superiors. If it is a low standard, low output will result. If it is a high standard, higher output will result. This is also dependant on the worker’s performance and the support the worker receives. If the worker receives no training, the output will reflect that. If the worker doesn’t have the proper tools for the job, the output will reflect that. And if the worker is having an off day, his performance will be weakened and the output will suffer.
This is pretty basic stuff. Yet how often do we forget it in our day to day dealings that should reflect the hard, honest work God expects from us? If a church publication has no standards, the product can only be so good. If a college newspaper has no support, even the best staff can only make it so good. If the editor of a magazine receives no training, the magazine will suffer, dependant on the ability of that editor to perform in spite of the handicap–and yet the magazine won’t be as good as if the editor was properly trained. If the employees are not performing, standards and support will mean nothing.
You may wonder what brought this up. It comes from looking around and noticing when things are lacking. A radio station has virtually no audience. Why? Little or no support and few standards. A publication is struggling to function effectively. Why? No standards and the workers were not properly trained (and maybe even not well compensated). If you want something to succeed you have to ensure that these aspects are taken care of. Otherwise you’re simply doing a half-ass job. Somehow I think God has called us to much more than that.
The flying nuisance circles the room, buzzing around, landing, and flying again
My head is swimming in a sea of possibility. What happened to yesterday when I played in the backyard? Now it’s time for the dreams to come true and I just don’t know what I want to do or where I want to go. But I have to figure it out yesterday and sound like I know. The cover letter has to be perfect, not too stuck-up professional, not too slacker-creative. Then comes the interview where you have to know what you’re talking about and pretend you want to work for somebody you really know nothing about. Can’t I just go play in the backyard again? What happened to yesterday and when did I get so old so fast?
This summer I’ve joined the paid working class (as opposed to last summer when I joined the slave intern caste) and am working the typical 9 to 5 desk job. Typical 9 to 5 with your commute. Luckily traffic isn’t too bad, but it’s still a 20-30 minute drive. I’ve quickly discovered that by the time you get home have dinner and clean up, it’s 7:00. You have three hours to “play” and then it’s 10:00 and you need to seriously start thinking about bed. By 11:00 I’m usually in bed or on my way. That’s only three hours of time to spend however I want. How pathetic is that? I suppose you also have your weekends, but who wants to endure 9 to 5, Monday through Friday drudgery just to look forward to the weekend? I guess it’s really teaching me the value of finding a job you like. Living for three hours each day is kind of pointless.
The other day I overheard a child in passing. He was explaining to his friend what he had to do that afternoon. The only coherent part I caught was that from 4:30 until 5:00 he was going to be bored. Scheduled boredom. I long for that.
I don’t comb my hair anymore and I wear baggy thrift store jeans and a faded leather jacket left over from high school. I am a college student. But the reality of life is beginning to set in; loan payments, rent, a real job. Homework and extensions and class will soon be a thing of the past. I can’t help but wonder and ask if this is what it’s all about. I flip through the classifieds wondering when I’ll find that one with my name, the one tailor made just for me. It’s only late at night when the campus grows quiet and the buzz of the caffeine wears off that I realize there won’t be a position with my name on it. I’ll have to make do and I’ll have to live with it. I may have to resort to a plan b or a plan c. But I so wish I could sit back in my thrift store jeans, read about zen and motorcycle maintenance, watch a causeless rebel and wonder if I have a cause. I want to find that cause and live for it, put the tie away for another day and another man’s money. Fight for that cause that stirs the passions in my heart and actually make a living on that. But there’s no listing in the classifieds for a dreamer, or a rebel, or a kid with ideas. They all want 1-2 years of experience in something I didn’t do, a degree in something I didn’t study, or knowledge of something I just don’t know. Can I walk away with a liberal arts degree and become a custodian? I could have done that three years ago and be $60,000 better for the deal. Something about it all just makes me wonder and I throw my arms in the air. I know there’s a description I can fill, I know there’s an answer, I know there’ll be a paycheck in the mail. But right now it just isn’t very clear. Life isn’t very easy and I’m following my road of American rites of passage. It’s like following the rabbit, and right now I just don’t believe there’s a forest between the trees.
Today was Fall Break, so we had no classes. I spent the entire day writing HTML for ReALMagazine.com. Did you see the new student art section? You should check it out.
A whole day spend excavating in cyberspace, building a site bigger, more pictures, more text, more users. What’s it all for? I could have taken a vacation this weekend. But I didn’t. It’s all based on the hope that God can use this humble little page. Use it to work in people’s hearts. To open doors. To build dreams. To push hearts to where they so need to be. To help people look up and see the beauty of another day. To make people turn up the radio and smile again. To have them sit down at the computer, and stand a changed person. That’s the point. That’s why I gave up my three day weekend. At least that’s my favorite reason. Pride, glory, satisfaction, ego–they all dance inside my head. I hope they have nothing to do with this site. Am I so naive in thinking they won’t? Can God purify my motives and work in spite of my pride? I can only pray that he can, and will.
For those of you truly worried about my state of health, the doctor told me it’s probably the clinging remnant of some bug. So I just get to deal with it until it goes away. Bring on the advil!
You may be noticing a few subtle changes here at ReALMagazine.com. I’ve decided to take my Fall Break here at school and bring some much needed change to the site. It’s cool to see the possibilities. We can do so much. There are so many things that can be done. Microsoft asks, ‘Where would you like to go today?’ and I think that’s a question we need to ask ourselves. We don’t have to sit around and wait for others to do everything. We can do it. Take the initiative and change the world.
What do you hope in? What do you count on? Is it your friends? Your job? Your car? Possessions? Be careful what you hope in, because there’s nothing in this world that can’t be yanked out from beneath you. Happy thought, huh? But it’s true. That cushy job? Don’t count on it always being there. Your hard work finally paying off? Something can always go wrong. That’s just the pessimist in me lashing out, isn’t it? Perhaps, but I’m trying to warn you. When whatever you hope in falls apart, it leaves you empty and lost. I worked hard this summer, and a lot of it’s not amounting to anything. I had a lot of hope in that, and now it’s crashing down around me. Lesson? Don’t put your hopes in the things of this world. If you trust God to take care of everything, and don’t rely on your current state of affairs, you’ll never have that lonely, sinking feeling dragging you down.
And even when things don’t seem to be amounting to anything, don’t count ’em out. I’ve often noticed that God has an ace up his sleeve.
With one final flick of the wrist, with one last song, with one last walk, and with one last train ride my days as a street performer ended. For this summer anyway. The next coming weeks will bring chaos, as I move out of one dwelling and never really settle into another one until school starts. I’ll also be crisscrossing the nation, from Chicago to Detroit to Green Bay to Kansas—and back again, before finally settling in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Continue reading The End of My Street Performing Career
A grimace of pain clouds his face.
A child’s simple smile as she looks over her shoulder, being dragged along by a parent in a hurry.
An unexpected yet extremely welcome gift from less than an acquaintance.
One friendly face in a sea of thousands.
A common occupation draws strangers together as music and a toy cross culture and language barriers.
A woman in wheel chair, pushing with every ounce of strength in her just to get across the street.
These are my days, snippets and snapshots from a sea of memories, pictures of an adventure in the city, learning what it’s like to be alive and what it really means to be a person.