I was not, and still am not, the kind of student who would go straight out of high school to a college and successfully have a degree within four years or less. But guess what I tried to do in 1970?
In mid-1973, I Ieft Bemidji State College with my head low and my future fuzzy to stop the money hemorrhage that my mom and dad, and I, were experiencing. And to find my way in the world. And, at the end of the day, to forget the girl who I was certain would be my wife and the mother of our children.
I think coming home from college with nothing to show for it, except four declared “majors” — art, then music, followed by English, and ending in business (the latter being the most ridiculous) — turned her head to a more suitable life partner.
It’s funny. I still can’t believe that I thought I could major in business.
My next stop was Pontiac, Michigan, specifically at Engine Building No. Nine, in the giant Pontiac compound that to me looked like a city of its own. There, standing at my place alongside the ever-moving assembly line, I learned the art of dropping two valve rods into prefabricated holes in an engine head. My Aunt Peggy had worked there for many years, and she got me that job, for which I was very grateful, even though I knew I would not be there long.
My brother Gary and his family were living in Ohio at the time. Gary invited me to stay at his home with his wife and three young sons while I found a job there. I was hired at Ohio Edison and began training to be an electric lineman. About that time, I discovered alcohol. I felt it soothed my troubles and made me happy. When my sister-in-law asked me to consider my own apartment — “NOW!” — I discovered it didn’t make everyone happy.
I struggled in the first year or so, but found a mentor who helped me at work, traded weight-lifting and exercise for alcohol (well, for the most part), made some good friends and found I liked my job. Not long after that, I received a call from Minnesota Power, and in almost no time I was on my way home. Within a year or so, I met the woman that would become my wife and the mother of four great sons. Of course, she didn’t know it at the time. And neither did I.
After about 18 years of climbing poles and digging holes in all kinds of weather, I was assigned to a desk job in Duluth. From there I was asked to move my family to Little Falls to take on another job. Ten years later I retired (early) from Minnesota Power, so that I could take a job that I had never done before: development for a charitable foundation. Seven years later, I left the foundation and began working with adults with disabilities — perhaps my favorite job and definitely the lowest paying.
It all led to now. At the end of March, I will retire from the Diocese of St. Cloud and from the Catholic Foundation. Looking back on experiences and all that I learned from the many people and the many jobs I held, I think I get it. God was always with me. My problems were his problems. My successes, his. My wife, my children and grandchildren, my jobs, my friends — are all gifts from God.
Good stewards, when we give our time, talent and treasure for the glory of our great God, and for all he does for us, he rewards us in ways so splendid that we may not see his hand. But he is there — even for a sinner like me. God bless!
Curt Hanson is executive director of the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of St. Cloud and director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development.