Archive for September, 2010


Remembering the day (9/11/01).

I was in the middle of “Christian Traditions” class at Saint Paul School of Theology on September 11, 2001 at 9:30 in the morning. We came up for our break at the one-hour mark and saw people sitting in front of the TV in the break room crying. Someone said that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I remember two thoughts coming very quickly and very distinctly into my head. The first was, “O my God, how horrible!” and the second, which came almost immediately, was, “Please don’t let this be a terrorist attack.” I knew that if it were an attack and not just a freakishly horrible accident that the ripple effects would go on and on and on.

But of course it was a terrorist act. And the ripple effects went on and on and are still going on. That horrible moment has sparked not one, but two wars. It originally cost more than 3,000 American lives, but has since cost many thousands more… American, Iraqi, Afghani, and others.

We face two distinct impulses today on this anniversary of that event. The first is to grieve the lives of those killed… both the innocent victims, but also those who died trying to save lives. Our second instinct is to look at that event with the advantage of nine years of distance and ask what it has taught us. Sometimes I am very afraid that it has taught us very little. When Jesus – speaking his message of love of enemies and prayer for persecutors and healing for the broken – was finally silenced by a brutal public execution on the cross, people naturally came to the conclusion that in the end, violent political force wins. People who dare to challenge the empire should keep their mouths shut and mind their own business.

But that all changed on Sunday morning. When Jesus rose bodily, alive and resurrected from death, transformed and transfigured, the tables were suddenly turned. God won. Love triumphed. Violence and power came up empty in the end. Case closed.

Except that it’s not. The world’s history has shown us that humanity has an enduring love affair with violence and power. It is the quickest and easiest way to solve problems – or so we think – and we reach for it without thinking. And we are amazed when we find that violence keeps causing more violence and power keeps leading to a hunger for more power.

The attacks of 9/11 were unique in many ways. They were the first, and so far the only, attacks on this country’s soil by a foreign antagonist. We really can’t sing the second stanza to “America the Beautiful” anymore where the words say, “Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears,” because our alabaster cities of New York and Washington, D.C. have indeed been dimmed by human tears. These attacks were completely unexpected and we were completely unprepared for them and they have caused HUGE changes in our sense of national security.

But in a way, they are old news. They are just one more example of the impulse to lash out violently at the people we are at odds with… one more example of either forgetting or completely ignoring what we learned in the garden on Easter Sunday morning. One more failure of faith and one more example of giving up and giving in to our basest human instincts.

So the question for us today on this anniversary is how will we commemorate this day? Another question is what have we learned from it? Apparently not much since there is still a nutjob threatening to burn copies of the Qu’ran later today.

This is not the 10th anniversary of the day, which always seems like a significant milestone, but I noticed something interesting about the date when I was writing it yesterday. The attacks happened on 9/11/01 and today is 9/11/10… the designation of the year is an exact reversal of the digits. So maybe the idea is that today, on this particular anniversary, we commemorate it with an exact reversal of the intended effects of that day. Just as Christ’s resurrection reversed the intended effects of the cross, so let our observance here today reverse the idea that violence triumphs. Let it be a spur to each one of us to LIVE the message of the resurrection, which underscores the ultimate triumph of Jesus’ life and teaching.

I am going to conclude my remarks here with a prayer that I found on the United Methodist website that, while not really written about the 9/11 anniversary, contains a powerful challenge for each of us in how we relate to those who are our neighbors.

A Prayer for Peace with Our Neighbors


How quickly we have transitioned 
From alien and stranger in this land

To Home Team Captain

From being the stranger

On Plymouth Rock (or did we arrive some other place?)

To the notion that we are entitled

To direct traffic, and pronounce:

This one clean

And that one unclean

In your eyes.


How quickly we have forgotten

The days when we were strangers

To this soil and to your Kingdom —

Not only strangers, but unrepentant enemies

Spiritually — bent on remaining as we were

Socially — determined to mark every tree that we passed

n our neighbors’ backyard.

Yet you loved us all

In spite of us all.

Teach us, O God, your ways.

Exchange our impulse to devour and destroy

For your impulse to turn swords into plowshares and pruning hooks.

Teach us how to love enemies, to do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27)

and to love strangers as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:34).

Strangers become friends

And enemies become neighbors. Amen.

By Safiyah Fosua


The Seven Common Mistakes…

… Job seekers over 50 make.

(from Michelle Goodman, posted originally on the ABC News’ website)
 A good portion of the e-mail I receive is from readers over age 50 who are looking for work after a layoff. Many tell me they found their last job more than a decade ago, in the classifieds of their local newspaper. Many more say they’re daunted — understandably so — by the foul job market, the prospect of ageism and the likelihood of being interviewed by someone half their age.

All of them worry about the generalizations some short-sighted employers make about older workers. Either they see you as overqualified and overpriced, or they believe you’re inflexible and technologically challenged. Perhaps they suspect you’re just biding your time and taking up space until retirement rolls around.

We’ve all heard countless career experts (yours truly included) offer the same old job hunting solutions for workers over 50:

But platitudes will only get you so far. So let’s talk about the top mistakes that hopeful hires over age 50 make and how to avoid them.

Telling Yourself That No One Hires Older Workers

I hear a lot of 50- and 60-somethings make this complaint. Yes, older candidates have to work harder to overcome discrimination, and no, it’s not fair. But that doesn’t mean every employer is hell-bent on shutting out all candidates over 35.

Example: The site lists more than 30,000 full-time and part-time jobs nationwide with “age-friendly employers.” Other job sites that cater to older workers: Jobs 4.0, Retired Brains, Seniors4Hire and In addition, AARP offers this list of the best employers for workers over 50.

So, please, don’t tell me no one’s hiring older workers.

Putting an Expiration Date on Contacts

You’ve been on this crazy hamster wheel we call “work” for at least three decades now, so you might as well milk the vast contact list you’ve amassed for all its worth. It’s perfectly acceptable to reach out to former employers, co-workers, vendors, classmates and other colleagues you haven’t corresponded with in a decade or two. (Searching sites like LinkedIn and Facebook make finding them a snap.) Not only will your peers understand, more of them are likely reaching out to their long-lost contacts, too.

Doing a History Dump

The No. 1 mistake I see with older candidates is they include too much information in their resume,” said Cathy Severson, a career coach who runs the site Retirement Life Matters. “Clear the clutter, old-dated, irrelevant information from your resume.”

Instead, tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for — each time. Two to three pages and 15 years of relevant experience is more than enough.

Likewise, be careful that you don’t turn an interview into a snooze-inducing laundry list of your top 100 achievements over the past 30 years, said Tom Mann of TR Mann Consulting, a marketing and advertising firm specializing in boomers and older workers.

Experienced workers are so eager to show their skills off that they do a ‘history dump,'” he said. “While it’s important to share your relevant skills, how you present is equally important. Show that you are also fun. Remember, Gen Y doesn’t want to feel like they’re working with their mom or dad.”

Copping an Attitude

Equally damaging is acting superior to an interviewer who’s younger than you or showing up with a chip on your shoulder the size of the national debt.

“It’s not a good idea to tell the person how much you can teach them,” said Cynthia Metzler, president and CEO of Experience Works, a national nonprofit that provides job training to low-income workers over 55. “But it is a good idea to tell them if you have any experience working or volunteering in a multigenerational workplace.”

Winging the Interview

Not practicing for your interviews is another no-no, especially if you haven’t been on one since the Reagan administration. If you’re not sure how your interview rap is coming across, Metzler suggests enlisting a 20- or 30-something pal or colleague to do a test drive with you:

“If you know you’re going to be interviewed by someone who’s 25 and you’re 65, then find someone who’s 25 and have them interview you.”

Arthur Koff, the 70-something who runs the job site Retired Brains, suggests taking it one step further:

“Try to get an interview with an employer you are not interested in working for as practice. You don’t want to go to your first [important] interview in a long time and make easily correctable mistakes.”

Failing to Embrace Your Inner Geek

As a Gen Xer, I didn’t grow up making videos and blogging about my every burp and hiccup. I’m actually one of the biggest Luddites I know. But like many of my tech-challenged peers, I’ve learned that blogging about my field and using the micro-blog Twitter are simple ways to get noticed by potential employers (how do you think I got this gig?).

As long as you act like yourself and don’t show up squeezed into your kids’ clothes, no one will accuse of you being a 20-something wannabe. Instead, people will be impressed by your tech skills.

“I have interviewed and hired people close to twice my age,” said Asher Adelman, founder and CEO of the job site GreatPlaceJobs. “I would highly recommend that older job seekers take advantage of social media platforms, which happen to be very easy to use, even for technophobes, in order to give the impression that they are in tune with the latest technological advances. This will work wonders for convincing young interviewers that you have the ability to work and relate with younger co-workers and excel in today’s rapidly changing workplace.”

Ignoring the Overqualified Elephant in the Room

As we all know, when employers see candidates applying for a job below their experience level or tax bracket, their hackles go up. So if you’re going for a position with less pay or responsibility than you’ve been accustomed to, it’s your job to explain in your cover letter and the interview why this is.

“It could be because they’ve had a very stressful career life and now would enjoy having their hands in something that is still part of a team but doesn’t involve so many headaches,” said Judi Perkins, a recruiter for 22 years who now works as a career coach. “It could be they’re willing to take a cut in pay because the almighty dollar just isn’t as important to them anymore.”

Whatever rationale you give (no longer interested in climbing the ladder, done with working 14-hour days, miss the hands-on tasks you did before joining management), be sure to let potential employers know that you’re interested in them, rather than just a job.

If you need more help getting up to speed with today’s brave new job hunt, visit your local career center and check out AARP’s excellent job hunting advice for older workers.

Whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel before you’ve even tried. Your tattooed, flip-flop wearing counterparts need someone who’s been around the block a few times to show them how this work thing’s really done.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — “The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube” and “My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire” (October 2008) — offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog,
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