Sunday, September 23, 2012

Giving Up My Job for Lent

Sometimes the jobs that we have are not always jobs that we have held as adults.  Before I was able to work in the "real world" I took on a slew of babysitting jobs.  One of those jobs was during my sophomore year of high school. 

High school was super fun for me, especially that year because I had a lot of personal issues going on with my family and such.  I would go to school in attire that my business teacher would refer to as "Cyndi Lauper cosplaying as Rainbow Brite."  I'd wear garish makeup, eye stickers, fishnet stockings and tights under skirts and shorts, off-colored t-shirts with references that no one ever got in my small town and lots of interesting hair styles.  I was a rebel Dottie, a rebel! 

When I was in Girl Scouts (because I joined pretty much every club in high school to get out of my house as often as possible) I had a troop leader who had a co-worker that needed a babysitter after school.  It was a great deal.  It was for three kids, a five-year old, a six-year old and a ten-year old, and they were going to give me ten dollars an hour.  This was a crazy amount of money for me because I was only fifteen at the time.  She would pick me up from school and then we would go and pick up her kids from school and then she would drop me off at their house and I'd watch the kids for about three or four hours while she finished her day at work.

The first day she came to pick me up I could tell that she was put-off by my appearance.  We had spoke on the phone and she loved me, but now, as she opened the door to her Escalade wearing a blazer and pantsuit, I was standing there wearing a colorful ensemble consisting of pigtails, glasses, a lab coat I borrowed from my dad, a Marilyn Manson shirt and a jean skirt with a petticoat.  She begrudgingly let me into her vehicle.  She seemed uncomfortable at first, but I talked with her on the way to her kids' schools and I eased her mind with my sharp wit and mature, adult voice.  The kids loved me right away and we connected pretty quickly.

I worked for her for a few months and it was going pretty well.  I helped the kids with their homework because I tutored on the side, I helped put a cheerleading routine together for the oldest one and I sat through that damn Disney Dinosaurs movie about twenty times because the little boy loved it.  Their house was huge and each kid had their own room.  They obviously had money because all of the kids went to Catholic school.  And that is kind of where the problems started coming into play...

The girls would bring their homework over to me each day after class and I'd see questions that had kind of religious overtones to it.  I would just gloss over it like I always did at that age and just smile and try to go along with the whole God thing.  I really did try to help them out and they got good grades. 

But one day when they came home the oldest one says "Today we drew what we were going to give up for Lent in class.  This is what I'm giving up."  And she showed me a picture she drew of ice cream.  I told her how great it was and went back to helping her sister with her work.  The older girl tapped me on the arm and asked, "What are you giving up for Lent?" 

I probably just should have pulled something out of my ass like soda or pizza at that point, but something came over me and I was struck with honesty for some reason.  "Actually,"  I told her nicely, "I'm not Catholic, so I don't really take part in Lent." 

She looked kinda shocked and said, "Well, what church do you go to?" 

"Um... Actually, I don't go to church.  I'm atheist."

"What religion is that?  Is that like a different kind of Christian?" 

I told her that it meant that I didn't believe in God and her eyes got really big and she gasped and put her hand over her mouth. 

"But you have to believe in God!  He is everywhere and he made us!  Even you!"  And she just went on and on and on.  I kept trying to change the subject but she wouldn't drop it.  She had no idea that you couldn't believe in God. 

So of course when her mom came home she runs up to her and says, "Mom!  She doesn't believe in God!  How is that even possible?"

Her mom looked at me like I had just unraveled the kid's entire world.  It's not like I was trying to, but I wasn't about to sit there and lie to the kid either about what I believed.  Yeah, it would have been easier that way, but that just isn't how I operate. 

That night I got a call from their dad saying that their grandma was going to be watching the kids after school from now on and thanked me for my services.  The mom didn't even have the guts to call me herself.  I was really upset because I knew that was the reason that I had been let go.  About a week later I was walking home from school and I saw the mom pull up to the high school and pick up some other girl who was about my age.  I had been replaced by a less controversial model.

I understand that people are free to do what they like with their children and their religious upbringing, but I was deeply saddened that the lady was so offended by someone simply mentioning the existence of another belief system in their house.  I never said anything to belittle their religion or that said my way of thinking was superior to theirs in any way, shape or form.  I only answered some questions for a curious kid and I didn't feel that they were inappropriate at all.  I wonder what would have happened if they had hired someone who believed in a different deity than theirs instead of none at all.  Was it the fact that my view differed from theirs or was it the fact that some people still feel they "can't trust" someone who doesn't believe in something more powerful than man? 

Either way it was disappointing and it changed how I felt about voicing my opinion during high school.  I'm over it now, but it was something that really made me feel like holding back and no one should have to feel that way if someone is asking them a question, looking for an honest answer. 

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