Dry Cleaning, Youth Ministry, and the Art of Kintsugi.

I had just finished my sophomore year of college in the summer of 2000, and had trekked back home across country with a friend of mine ready to make some money that summer. Dad had recently been re-diagnosed with a brain tumor, I had academic probation looming, and hadn’t yet told my parents about my bad grades. I figured making money that summer would help out a ton. The job fell through. I was at an all time low. I got frustrated, and went and signed on with a door to door sales company that I saw online. They promised huge commissions and easy work. I spent the next few weeks walking door to door training to sell small businesses on switching their credit card processing to whoever our client was. I was terrible at sales, still am.

I hadn’t made any money past my two week training period, and was starting to get desperate. I was on my feet driving and walking all day in a dress shirt, tie, and really uncomfortable dress shoes in one of the most beautiful places to be during the summer. One Wednesday morning I managed to get a dry cleaner to sign on with our company. They family owned business was eager to save money. I was glad to finally get a sale. There was only one problem.

I lied to make the sale.

I remember driving home across the lake during lunch ashamed of what I had done. How could I look my parents in the eye later that day? I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror.

I got home and ripped off my tie and threw it down on the driveway. My next door neighbor saw me, and asked what had me so pissed off.

After I told him that I hated my job, he told me he hated my job too. He owned a landscaping company and said he needed another english speaking guy on his crew to help deal with installs. It was tough work, but it was outside in one of the most pleasant places in the US during the summer. I accepted his offer, got in my car, drove 30 min back to the dry cleaners and told them to tear up the paperwork, and not trust anyone that came unsolicited through the door offering them ways to save money.

I sat in the car and prayed. I prayed that God would forgive me for ripping people off. For being so arrogant to assume that money would solve my problems. I was tired of having my priorities out of whack, and I knew that I didn’t want to be part of that system. I knew that there was another way of life for me that I had been ignoring.

It was at the little dry cleaner’s that I decided to become a youth minister.

Youth ministry had been on the horizon for a while, and it seemed like everyone else knew I would end up there. My parents knew, but were wise enough to let me figure it out myself. My friends knew. My professors knew. Everyone at my church seemed to know too. It seemed like the biggest surprise was not me telling everyone that I was going to change my career trajectory, but that it had taken me so long to figure it out.

I drove from the dry cleaner back to the home office, told my boss that I was quitting (her and the other lead were more upset about their lost commission) and drove home.

The next day I woke up early, put on some work shoes and gloves, and spent the rest of the summer installing yards and sprinklers, breaking up concrete and rough soil. It was perfect. Me and God had plenty of time for conversation. I ended up helping out with the youth ministry as a volunteer that summer as well. I came back and did the same the summer after my junior year. I was hooked.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, creating a unique value in a broken object. Often times, the objects take on a greater beauty than before, and their value grows because of the unique nature of every repair.

I’m up in the Seattle area this weekend for my 20 year high school reunion. There’s several places that I wanted to visit while I’m here, and this little dry cleaner is one of them. It’s not much of a tourist attraction (actually, it’s not even open anymore) but it’s an important place for me. It’s a place where God starting pouring a little gold.