The Labor Day holiday got me to thinking about some of the jobs I’ve had. While I was still in college, I became the pastor of Half Acre Baptist Church, near Linden, Alabama. I went to school at Samford University during the week and church on weekends. I also worked at Berry High School as a “custodial engineer” and “door-security agent” after classes. I could have said I swept floors and locked doors, but even though that rhymes, the other ones sound more impressive! I also covered graffiti with paint during school breaks, so students would have a clean place to write more graffiti.

In that first pastorate, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I thought those sweet folks didn’t know that I didn’t know, but they knew. Bless their hearts. Recently, I told someone that I delivered some terrible sermons to those poor people. He laughed and said, “Things haven’t changed much, have they?” I think he was teasing. For the next 30 years I served as a pastor, but not at the same church. For the last 13 years, I have served as the director of Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association, in Opelika, Alabama. I’ve also done comedy and music through the years. Sometimes I got paid to do those. Sometimes I paid them to let me! It might appear that ministry is all I’ve ever done, but long before then, and even at times during then, I’ve had other jobs. I even co-owned my own paint-and-body repair shop right after high school.

My first job was working at my dad’s business. He owned a coal yard and building supply store. I worked there as soon as I was old enough to hold a shovel. I don’t guess we had child-labor laws back then, or at least Daddy and I didn’t know about them if we did! I asked him once why I didn’t get paid to work for him like the grownups did. He answered, “That’s because they don’t eat and sleep at my house.”

Even at that naive young age, I understood exactly what he meant.

So, I guess that was my first paying job, even though in my mind, I wasn’t actually getting paid. I was getting an allowance. Dad “allowed” me to work for my rent, clothing, and food!

I had a few occasional jobs as a kid that paid. $2.00 seemed to be the going rate for most of them. I cut my neighbors grass for $2.00...with a push mower. Back then, I could buy necessities, like two 45 records or a model car, for that amount of money. Another neighbor, Mr. Ernest Patton, once paid me to crawl inside some road tiles. I would have gladly done an adventure like that for free, and probably had, but Mr. Patton gave me $2.00. He had tiles that ran under his road that water from his lake drained through. The interior seams needed to be sealed and all the grown up were too big to crawl through, or maybe they were too afraid there was a snake in there.

At about that same age, I also had a short career as a cotton picker. I do believe it may have been then, in the middle of one of those cotton fields, with a pick bag strapped around my shoulder, that I sensed the calling to ministry. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a cotton farmer, or a cotton picker, but I distinctly felt led in a different direction!

I am thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given to work and earn a living...even for those jobs that I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life.

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit for more information.

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