When I walked in the door today, two of my coworkers were engaged in a bit of a shouting match. It was about the temperature. One felt it was too hot, the other felt it was just right, and what ensued was a battle royal, despite the fact that one of them would be leaving in less than 20 minutes. “Merry Christmas”, I thought.
When you work three people to a shift, trapped for 8 hours in a little room as we do on this drawbridge, a certain amount of drama is bound to ensue. For the love of all that’s holy, do NOT discuss politics or religion up in here. Not if you want to escape with your life. Well, okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get what I’m saying. When someone turns on the news, I’ve learned to put on my head phones and lose myself in my music.
In honor of the season, I brought in one of the many versions of the Christmas Carol and watched it on my laptop. It occurred to me that of all the characters in that classic story, the one who appeals to me the most is Bob Cratchit. In many ways I can relate to him, and in many others I aspire to be him. I relate to his circumstances. He’s underpaid, and his boss (in my case, the greater corporation, because I actually like my immediate supervisor) is cheap, and is much more concerned with getting a day’s work out of his employees than he is about their general welfare. My employers could so easily pay me more and change my life, and could provide decent health insurance and proper and up-to-date working equipment, but they don’t care about me or anyone else. As with Scrooge, it’s all about the money. We wear the chains we forge in life. No doubt about it.
But here’s what impresses me about Bob Cratchit: In spite of his dismal working conditions and stress at home (a sick child, a lot of mouths to feed, and what appears to be a cranky, albeit loving spouse), he’s basically very happy, and seems to have his priorities straight. Work is something you do for survival. But what you live for is friends and family. There’s nothing else that matters, really–certainly not the room temperature.
In the interests of full disclosure, in spite of the lousy pay and benefits, I actually do like my job. I’d just like to be able to do more than merely survive. But maybe I should take a page from Bob Cratchit’s book and stop feeling hopeless about my lot in life. Maybe I should shift my focus away from the things I want and will most likely never have, and instead realize that I already have quite a bit—a roof over my head (for now, anyway), enough food on my table, and people whom I love very much. When all is said and done, that’s really all any of us need. Everything else is just stuff.