During college, my summer job was to work on an assembly line building kitchen cabinets. I was on the “base” line, which meant we built the larger cabinets that go under the countertop (as opposed to the wall cabinets).

My first summer the shift started at 5:00am. I had to go to bed no later than 9:00pm in order to be up at 4:00am. Since we worked seven hours before our noon lunch break, I packed two lunches everyday–and wolfed the first one down in 10 minutes at our first break at 9:00am.

The work was extremely repetitive, fast paced, hot, dirty (mostly sawdust), with lots of heavy lifting. It was extremely taxing.

I learned a lot. I made friends. One from Mexico. Another from Guatemala. Warm and friendly, they helped me practice Spanish.

A middle aged lady thought I was cute–wasn’t ashamed to catcall, yell pet names, shoot at my feet from ten feet away with her pneumatic brad nailer. I still have a scar from an accidental burn from the hot-glue gun she whipped around into my arm. A team, we were in haste to build as fast as we could to keep up with the hourly quota.

A younger man casually asked if I had heard his new album–I was sure he was joking until he brought me a CD–original songs, self recorded with his band of friends–the quality was amazing.

The lady across from me struggled to keep up. We weren’t sure she was going to last too long. One day her nail gun jammed. She tried to fix it without unplugging the air and shot herself in the pad of her index finger. She turned white. We called for help. They whisked her away. I never saw her again.

Old Marie was the “mother” of the walking line. Probably in her late sixties. She was short, dark-haired, feisty. She could make sailors blush, and would cackle her toothless laugh when she knew she shocked us all. She was loud and mean, but dearly loved. When she missed a few days of work, the line grew distraught. Their fears were realized when the news came down that she had died in her home. We went to her wake in our nice clothes. And mourned the hole in the line.

People are people. Skilled. Proud. Broken. Image-bearers with tremendous dignity. We all need Jesus. We all need each other.