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How I Found Purpose at a Part-Time Gas Station Job

A MAN'S GUIDE ON HOW TO

Several months ago, I realized I had some BIG, REALLY BIG dreams.  I needed tools for those dreams, those tools cost money.  But I wasn’t willing to disrupt our household budget to get that money.  So what did I do?  I hopped on Indeed.com and started looking for part-time jobs.  How I thought I would find a part-time job that would let me work every other weekend, every other Thursday, every other Friday, only till 10PM at night, or from 5 AM to 8 AM in the morning, I have no idea, but I was going to try.

I noticed that the small town gas station down the road was hiring, and I thought… hmm, well, if anyone could work with my crazy schedule, it would probably be them, and I impulsively filled out an application.

Shoot, I didn’t even fill it out that well to be honest with you.  (I don’t advocate for doing that, but I will explain why I didn’t fill it out well.)  I have worked for the same company now for 5 1/2 years, and have been working in general for 20.  The last thing I wanted to do was fill out an entire job history, especially since, frankly, it wasn’t an upwardly mobile position or primary employment positions for me. So, I just wrote down where I work currently.  I figured that should show them what they needed to know- that I have a stable employment history, am not prone to job hopping and clearly can meet expectations.

A few days later, I had an email wanting an interview.

Uh-oh, now I had to explain to my husband what I had done.  (All the laughing faces here.)  My thought was that if I got a part-time job, I could split the money.  Put half of it back into the household budget to build our savings, and use for the house, maybe pay down some debt early.  And I could keep the other half to invest as I saw fit.

Thankfully, he took it pretty well.

I went to the interview and fell in love with the manager at first sight.  Ok, well, maybe not sight, but I liked her right away.  And wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, I was hired.

Within a week, I realized I LOVED it.  I looked forward to donning my black polo, removing my jewelry, and taking my reusable cup in with me to pull a 4-hour weeknight (or 8 hour weekend)  shift busting my toosh mopping floors, cleaning the bathroom, making coffee and tea, helping customers and whatever else needed to be done.  Even when my schedule had to change to a less preferred time, I found myself arguing with my husband about the value that job was giving me and that I didn’t want to give it up and we would be OK with the new schedule.

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“It gets me out of the house.  I know I talk to people all day, on the computer, for my job, but it’s not the same as face to face.”

“It builds my confidence. These are easy tasks for me, and I know that I can accomplish them well and exceed expectations.  Even the problems that need to be solved are generally easy for me to solve.  Sometimes my day job leaves me drained and frustrated trying to figure things out.  It’s nice to have something easy.”

“I love these people that work here, they are a team, I love being part of that.”

“I like knowing that if I want a $5 something, I don’t have to worry about where it comes from out of the budget.  I can save up for a big thing, or I can get little things here and there.  Or if the kids or nieces or someone need something little, I can do that and not mess up the household budget.  It’s empowering to have that flexibility.”

But then something else started to happen.  Other people started telling me how much they enjoyed it when I was working there.  One particularly hard to please senior lady learned my every other weekend schedule and makes it a point to stop in when she knows it’s my days (and I know when she doesn’t make it in and worry about her).  One co-worker gets the widest smile on his face on the one day every two weeks we get to pull a shift together.  We work hard the entire time, but we have fun and support each other’s roles 100% while doing it.  A young girl came in to get pop and candy and mentioned her stepmom was pregnant and they sent her to fill a pop craving.  She also said that they were having trouble with the pregnancy and were hoping the baby would make it when she saw some roses we had, she asked if she had enough to buy one for her stepmom.  She was a dollar short.  I had a dollar.  I gave her my dollar.  She picked the yellow rose, which I then told her is the color of friendship.  She expressed gratitude and I told her that I was a stepmom too.  She started to leave, turned around came back and gave me a big hug: “Your kids are lucky to have you.”  That made me cry.

I worry about my co-workers, when they have a bad day, or when I know things are bad at home.  I pray for them, listen to them.

I am blessed, unlike some of them.  I don’t worry about my next meal, or if I will make rent.  I don’t have their worries anymore- but I used to.  I remember that part of my life. And I seek to encourage them to keep doing the right things, and they too will get past that.

And then one day, I realized why I really loved being at the gas station… I could see myself making a difference in people’s lives.  Shy kids open up when they realize that I DO know about paw patrol, and parents smile at seeing their kids engage with a polite stranger.  (I do also respect children’s boundaries, so don’t misread that.)  Adults come in at the end of a workday and are just bone tired, and I have energy still and can make a joke and they get to let loose a little. Or they are on their way to work and weren’t looking forward to it, but I can be super nice and they realize that some people do care.  Or sometimes, they are going back and forth between two towns trying to care for aging parents, or family in a hospital, and we provide them with a hot meal (pizza).  Maybe it isn’t the most nutritious meal on the planet, but it’s hot and they don’t have to make it and there is relief in that.

That is when I saw the common thread in all of this- as an employee of the gas station, I was in a particularly unique position to ensure that people were uplifted as they go from one place to another, that I help make their transition from one thing to the next a little better, a little nicer, and maybe that means they have more smiles at work, or extra pep when they get home to their family.  I like to think so, anyway.

Yes, my fellow gas station attendants, your role has a purpose and not a small one.  You are presented with the opportunity to influence the track that the remainder of a person’s day takes; to influence how they will interact with others as they go forward into the world.  That is no small thing.

This past weekend an old friend asked why I was working at the local gas station. I smiled, laughed and said, “Grins and giggles.”
He says “yeah, right.”
 
I responded, “Seriously. I work here because I like it. I love the people here…” and then proceeded to tell him how I had found purpose at the gas station.
 
He told me that had to be rehearsed. I shrugged and told him to believe what he wanted. 
Because, frankly, HE doesn’t have to understand the purpose I have found in that role.  It for me to understand and to fulfill.
How can you find purpose in your everyday roles?  Feel free to share in the comments!  I would love to know!
Purpose at aPart-time

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