Greg Mackie, CNA

It’s time for another installment of “What the heck is Greg doing in Atlanta?” My employment situation has taken an unexpected turn for the better. I don’t have a job yet, but I think I’m getting a lot warmer. I feel Jesus’ and the Holy Spirit’s hands opening doors and moving me through them, guiding me to where They would have me be. Here’s the story…

As I’m sure most of you know from previous blog entries, I have been looking for work in Atlanta. I have been applying mostly for retail jobs, since that is where most of my work experience lies. But after applying for more than fifty jobs and never getting past the first round (the three interviews I’ve had were at mass hiring events where they interviewed everyone who came in), I began to wonder if I was looking in the right direction. But what was the right direction? I was confused and feeling pretty daunted by the whole thing.

The only other direction that seemed like a real possibility was caring for the elderly in some capacity, perhaps in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or best of all, a hospice. I had volunteered at a hospice for the last year and a half in Sedona, and it was some of the most rewarding work I’d ever done. I discovered then that I really enjoyed working with the elderly, and seemed to have a knack for it too. The volunteer coordinator at my hospice always praised my work.

The problem was, to actually have a reasonable chance of getting a paying job caring for the elderly, I needed some additional training and certification – specifically, I needed to become a CNA, or Certified Nurse’s Aid (or Certified Nursing Assistant). I had actually gotten what I felt was a weak guidance “hit” on that idea some time earlier, but I wasn’t convinced. I had heard that CNAs worked long hours for low pay (though it was higher than retail), and I wondered if I was really up to it. I thought the training would take too long to meet my immediate needs – the classes I saw on the Internet took around three months. Yes, I did enjoy working with the elderly, so this seemed like something I might enjoy and do well. But I wanted to be sure before taking such a big step.

So, around noon on Wednesday, I prayed and asked Jesus if working with the elderly was the right direction for me. I asked him to give me some definite guidance about it – I really wanted to know if this was what he wanted me to do. I got a good feeling about it when I prayed, but I still wasn’t sure.

Later that afternoon, I felt I was guided to visit a local hospital to look for work there. And on the way to the hospital, I finally hit bottom emotionally around my employment situation. My attempts to get into retail were going nowhere, and I had pretty much run out of retail jobs to apply for. And what was the point of going to this hospital? Where specifically should I go? Whom was I going to ask for work? What kind of work would I ask for? I wasn’t qualified for anything there! I sat in the parking lot distraught, feeling that I had reached a dead end. But I had driven all the way to this hospital and felt I was guided to do it, so I figured there must be some reason I was there. I literally asked Jesus to put one foot in front of the other for me, directing me to wherever I was supposed to go.

I ended up standing in an empty corridor, looking at an exhibit on the wall that presented the history of that hospital. While I was looking at the exhibit, still distraught and confused, two people approached me from behind: an elderly woman in a wheelchair and another woman, a volunteer caregiver who was pushing the chair. They stopped at the exhibit.

The elderly woman had lived in the area all her life, so when she saw all those old pictures, she came to life and started describing everything. She was ten years old when this hospital was built, she remembered the day it opened, she knew the doctor in this picture, and the doctor in that picture…one story after another. For me and the caregiver this was essentially an archeology exhibit, but for the woman in the wheelchair it was a piece of her life. All three of us engaged in animated conversation, centered on this elderly woman’s stories of the history she had lived. Finally, we exchanged pleasant goodbyes and the two of them continued down the corridor.

I realized after they had gone that my mood had shifted completely. While before I was distraught and confused, now I was feeling radiant joy. And that joy came from talking to an elderly person and her caregiver. So, as I reflected on these events throughout the evening and considered again my dismal prospects in retail, I concluded that I had found the guidance I was seeking. Yes, I was meant to work with the elderly. That was the right direction to go. I don’t know if the two women were sent by Jesus to give me that message – I’d like to think so. But whatever the details of how it unfolded, a transformation had happened inside me. I now knew what I was meant to do. That night, I was so excited about it that I couldn’t sleep.

That conviction has stayed with me ever since. So, on Friday I signed up for a class that will give me the CNA training I need in fifteen days. Everyone has told me that I should have no trouble finding a job once I am certified, because there is a shortage of CNAs and the ranks of the elderly who need care are growing every day. Even my gender will help me, I am told, because men are in demand (in part because lifting patients is part of the job, and men can generally do that more easily).

Best of all, though, I’m convinced that this work will be far more fulfilling than retail work ever would have been. As a Course teacher, what better second job could I have than one in which I extend loving and compassionate care to brothers and sisters who really need it? I have a feeling that this will be deeply joyful work for me. As I give, I will receive. And it will pay the bills too. What more could I ask for? My first class is Monday, March 2. I look forward to getting started!