i've always known that one day i would want to write more about my time at the synagogue. working for a religious organization is fascinating. the stories are endless and the lessons learned are valuable. but as all my friends who've worked for a church or a synagogue could tell you, working for god can suck.
i was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. i would get calls during dinner, in the middle of the night, too early on a sunday morning... no time felt like my own. plus, no one really calls their synagogue just to say "hi." something is going on that made them pick up the phone - a death, a birth, a divorce, a crisis of some sort. whatever it was, chances were good their emotional state was heightened. add to that a meager paycheck and yeah, working for god did indeed suck sometimes.
i've been thinking a lot about those years lately. surprisingly they have been, more often than not, happy thoughts. things were hard, yes, and my time ended on a sour note but they weren't always that way. i'm glad that i've gotten to the point that i can remember the better times.
last week, i was watching mad men and peggy said to don, "i want you to know, the day you saw something in me my whole life changed." that line got under my skin. days later, it was echoing in my head. after giving it a lot of thought i realized that i had said something similar to rabbi jm on the day i gave my notice.
i was young when i started, only 24. i was hired as the receptionist but my predecessor was in her eighties and was slowing down a bit. after a few months and many conversations with jm, they decided that i should work with her, learning how to do parts of her job, helping her out with the things she no longer wanted to do. i hadn't quite finished college and wasn't entirely sure what i wanted to do with my life. i'd had management experience and possessed some valuable skills. i liked the work i was doing and was eager. it was a good place to be, with exceptional people. truly. so, why not?
in may of 2000, my predecessor had a heart attack. it was memorial day weekend and jm called me at home. she had survived but it became clear that she was going to need more help than initially planned. i was going to need to do x, y and z starting immediately. he never really asked if i could, or even wanted to. this was what made sense to him and so this was what was going to happen. he knew i could do the job and so i would do the job. right then and there, everything changed for me.
everything that happened on the job for the next 10 years was a result of that moment, the moment jm believed in me. i also think its why my memories of the synagogue have been so hard to untangle. i have to start somewhere though and this seems like as good a place as any.