A few days ago, the Lord began highlighting this story from my youth and He said, "Tell them this, 'You may be in the broom shop now, but Ice Cream is coming!"
"So, what's this?" you might ask. Is this like a Cinderella story? Well, no. But maybe for a young 16-year-old guy, it might be my own version of it. Cinderella had to sweep up the cinders with a broom. Well, as for me, I had I to MAKE THE BROOMS that others use. Here's that story...
Working at the Broom Shop
Barely licensed to drive, I was able to get to one of the first jobs I'd had with this much responsibility. Having worked at a previous broom shop the year before, I felt grateful to land a job with this new employer in a small back-of-his-house shop.
I was excited when I showed up at the shop for my first day of broom-making training. There were only three employees and I was one of them—"the three broom makers" I guess. I was to learn the trade from the ground up, or so I thought. Previously, I'd done grunt work, but now I was going to learn to make brooms using a broom-making machine. And the good news was...this was a Christian business with all Christian employees. How exciting was this going to be!
Within moments of reporting for work, the proprietor, an aged man, took me around the corner to show me how to gather the broom straw in neat piles for my machine. "What? You're LEFT HANDED? How are you going to make brooms left handed?" he snapped at me! (Photo: My friend, Gary, a high school senior 48 years ago from my first broom shop experience in 1970. He's a dentist today)
"What's happening to me?" I remember thinking. He seemed furious at this sudden discovery. From my memory, from that moment onward, as long as I worked there, I never heard a kind word from this man to me. I had been a misfit in my own home (my dad always called me the "black sheep of the family" and treated me like it)—and now I was a misfit at this new job. "Maybe once I start making brooms, it'll get better," I thought to myself. I was wrong.
I was a junior in high school at Christian Academy, but my two co-workers had graduated from the same academy and now were in Christian college. Whatever benefit the name "Christian" was to have, I would not see it on this job. What became a daily (or weekend) habit with these guys, as we made brooms, is that they would ask me simple questions. Innocent questions. I'd answer, hoping to build relationships with these two. Then a few more questions. "This is going good!" I thought.
After a break or after lunch, then came the sarcastic responses to every question. It became daily torture. I didn't want to just refuse to talk as that would get me nowhere. But the most innocent answers would be thrown in my face with sarcasm and mocking. I had to work fast, we all did, because we were paid based on completed and acceptable brooms. Speed was everything. From time to time, finally things would get quiet and I could get my brooms made.
Then SNAP! The wire to wind my nearly-finished broom broke and the broom was ruined. I had to either start over or throw the broom away. "Wait, this broom's wire didn't break!" I realized, "This wire was cut!"
Exactly! And it would not be the last time this would happen, causing a shout of victory from these two co-conspirators, my co-workers. Time and again, throughout the summer and fall, then winter and the next spring, the wire would be cut way down in the roll so I would never know when it would hit. Every few days, it hit. Every few days my "Christian" adversaries rejoiced out loud. These guys were large built, compared to me. To pick a fight was hopeless. I knew I had to endure, and I also knew there was no way out. I had to work. Parents orders.
From my memory, I never told anyone at home what was going on. What was the use?
My Salary from the Broom Shop
Every Friday I got paid. Just about $20. I would arrive home, and the first week of my job, my father stunned me by telling me to "sign my check over to my parent's account". It would be used for groceries for the family. There were six kids in the family and at least four of us were working. I was the third child, and yet no other sibling had to sign over their paychecks. I felt picked on! This was mostly, and just being honest here, because I was indeed being picked on, both at work and at home. It was just the way it was. I learned to just "grin and bear it" as the saying goes.
Now, before you thinking that the $20 I signed over each week was not much, let me clarify. According to Google, $20 in 1970 is worth $127.50 today. Each week I was literally purchasing most of my family's groceries. Even back then, I knew it because—guess who was chosen every Friday afternoon to go shopping for groceries? Yep, that was me...I was chosen and given the grocery list for the family. Wow. Did I mention the Cinderella thing?
My Sweet Job at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor
After just about one full year, the opportunity came and another job presented itself. I was about to go into my senior year in Christian Academy. Slowly, the pressure began to lift. My older brother had landed a job at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, and there was a new opening for a bus boy. Nothing fancy, mind you. I would have to work until midnight on most school nights and I would have to be either a bus boy on a given night or the dishwasher—not a waiter like my brother.
You know what? I LOVED IT!
God had showed up on the scene and rescued me out of the miry pit. I was out of this "supposedly Christian environment" and entered into the secular world and I LOVED IT! I was one of the best dishwashers they'd ever seen. I was fast. I was clean. I would get out early and no one ever had to wait for dishes.
And every night...EVERY-SINGLE-NIGHT on most days of the week, it was free ice cream. All I could eat. Good food. Nice People. And a full massive BANANA SPLIT at NO COST TO ME, every single night! That year I gained three pounds and lost it when the ice cream stopped.
Now, for some reason, I was suddenly allowed to keep my own money, which was a bit more than I'd been making at the broom shop. PLUS, I'd come home each night with a huge pocket full of a few bills and lots of change from my share of the tips each night.
Yeah, I ran a hundred Zoos around Farrell's and yes, it felt like 1000 Zoos (a zoo is an ice cream bowl large enough to feed a large table of guests and was carried by two employees)—but I was in my seventh heaven compared to the past year. I loved the people and my bosses, and they loved me. (Photo: Two employees running a zoo)
What are the Spiritual Implications of these Early Jobs?
Now, if you're waiting for this story to get spiritual...OK, here it is.
In the years since, I've tried to make sense out of what God was trying to teach me in that broom shop. I can only come up with the supposition that God was working into me both patience and longsuffering. Maybe I needed to learn hard work without any words of kindness and without being able to keep even one penny of the money. I don't know. God never told me then, and He hasn't told me now. But I feel peace in what I surmised He was doing.
As I prepared to write up this story, God popped this Scripture into my head from Psalm 30:5: "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."
This story and that Scripture—is literally a Word of the Lord for a great number of people reading this article right now.
"Joy is on the way!" God is saying to you. "Hold on just a bit longer," God is saying.
God has not forgotten you. He's been working into you a great depth of character. Don't look at what it feels like now. Look at what it's doing inside of you. And look forward to your next position that is going to delight you!!
IT WILL DELIGHT YOU LIKE ICE CREAM!
And now HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD:
"You may be in the broom shop now, but Ice Cream is coming!"
I know this will help so many of you. While I have you here, thank you in advance for keeping Derene and me and our 30 staff members in your prayers. We depend on your freewill giving to make this all work. We love you more than you can know!
Steve and Derene Shultz, Founders
Elijah List Ministries
Personal note from Steve Shultz:
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