Friday, July 8, 2011
Two sugars and a cream
Recently I was on a small commercial plane, about 24 passengers, run by United Express flying from San Francisco to Sacramento. It was a very rough trip, lots of rain and wind, with some tough turbulence to make the ride interesting.
I glanced around to see how the other passengers in this small enclosed space were holding up, and lo and behold, I found myself looking into the face of one of the feminist icons of the 1960s, none other than Gloria Steinham.
There she was peering back at me through her signature huge round glasses, her hair still long and parted in the middle, much as it had been in the sixties and seventies when she was one of the founders of the feminist movement, when I was still a teenager.
I'm no radical, having been raised in a very conservative household. But one thing about our family was different from most of the kids I knew during the 1960s. My Mom worked full time at the local hospital as an LVN. The only other kids I knew whose mother's worked outside the home were those who mothers were either teachers, or who worked at the hospital with my mother. It was truly a different time.
* * * *
Fast forward twenty years to 1981-82, when after almost fifteen years as a full time, at home, mom and homemaker, due to a series of unfortunate events (and no Lemony Snickett happy ending in sight) I had to rejoin the workforce. Ill-prepared and feeling pretty inferior I showed up every day and did my best. My kids were counting on me.
God blessed me, I learned fairly quickly, and eventually I was writing grant proposals for one of the health agencies I worked with. One day I was informed that a proposal I had submitted to state headquarters had been selected for a personal review toward potential granting of funds for some badly needed new equipment for the local hospital, the very one my mom had worked at for so many years. I was equal parts thrilled and humbled.
A state big-wig came up from Sacramento to our little county offices. I had been given full-charge of the meeting, by my superiors, because it was my proposal. The conference room was set up, agendas neatly typed, and overheads ready for slide illustrations (this was before laptops and PowerPoint) and about a dozen professionals due in just a few minutes.
About three minutes before the scheduled start of the meeting, in walked Mr. Big-Wig, striding in like he owned the place. I had carefully chosen my navy blue suit, cream blouse, and navy pumps to convey that I was a serious professional. (Okay, I probably looked more like a flight attendant, but I was trying.)
I stepped briskly forward to introduce myself and introduce the rest of the team, holding out my hand for the customary meet-and-greet handshake. Mr. B-W ignored my outstretched hand and tersely said, "Could you bring me a cup of coffee right away? I take two sugars and cream."
Although I was taken aback, good manners prevailed and I said, "Certainly. I'll have it here in a couple of minutes."
A few minutes later, I returned to the conference room, now filled with about a dozen attendees taking their seats and handed Mr. B-W his coffee. Every seat was now filled, except the one at the head of the table reserved for the person conducting the meeting. Mr. B-W had positioned himself on one side squarely in the middle of the table, apparently so he could "command and control" from mid-court.
I walked quietly to head of the table, took my seat and quickly commenced a review of the agenda. The meeting went well, and the grant was approved. A few months later I received a commendation from the County Board of Supervisors for the work in obtaining the new hospital equipment. That was a good feeling, but it was not the best one associated with that project.
After the review meeting that day six months earlier, Mr. B-W approached me looking a little chagrined. "I wanted to let you know, I'm sorry about earlier today..." .
Before he could say anything more and embarrass himself even further, I smiled and said, "No problem. You simply found out that I know how to do more than just make coffee around here."
* * * *
I never experienced the kind of discrimination that some women in the workplace encountered before my time. I did get a taste of it from time to time in the early years. Much later, when I occupied a corner office, with its own conference table, multiple staff to prepare my meeting agendas, and others who made my plane reservations, etc. I worked hard to remember there was a time when I was summarily dismissed as a lightweight, a person of little consequence.
At those times I would hold fast to the fact that I was a child of the Most High. There was nothing anyone could ad to, or detract from, that fact. My job was to work hard, prepare well, remain faithful and He would take care of the rest of it, including any rewards.
I'm pretty sure that is still the case. So if someone "put you down" today, or tried to "put you in your place" - I encourage you to remember that Someone greater has already lifted you up. There is no title, office, or paycheck that can compare with the the honor of being a Child of God.
Blessings to you this evening. ...Marsha