I recently went through a major job change at the cusp of becoming a true senior citizen and completely changed fields from working in group homes to becoming a package handler at FedEx.
FedEx Ground has a major distribution hub in the warehouse district of Superior near Billings Park. I joined three weeks before Christmas, and it’s the first job I ever took in which I was hired online and then with a follow-up phone call.
After the first week or so, I walked into my manager’s office and told him, “I can’t do this. I am old, age 60, a diabetic and have trouble walking after the shift.”
I walked back in 10 minutes later and said, “I refuse to give up.” I went back on the warehouse floor with my mind committed, my body trailing.
I was a two-time state champion distance runner in 1977 and 1978 and looked deep into my past as someone who doesn’t give up. Lyle Helke, my track coach from White Bear Lake, would have not allowed me to give up.
One night, I was considering my options, and I met a co-worker named Dave Carter. He was 79 years old and had gone through eight foot surgeries since February 2020. He had to learn how to walk again at the Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Dave also had a fall in December, and his doctor told him to use caution if he returns to work because his neck was not healing right.
He came back a few weeks later like it was no big deal.
He told me, “You should really stay here.” He pointed to his friend, Greg, and said, “We’ve been here four years. We used to work six nights a week, but now we work five.”
I said, “Maybe you should only work four hours a night.”
He said, “Once I am here, I stay here … I stay here as long as Greg does.”
His simplicity in reasoning had to do with an individual loyalty, not a conscientious awareness. His basic loyalty to commitment is something that has carried him throughout his life.
He served in the Marine Corps. He and his son, Scott Carter, run their own cleaning business in daylight hours.
His life story resonated within me to not be the person who gives up.
He worked at the House of Donuts in Duluth for 27 years making handmade delicious donuts. He was well-liked and well known in the community.
He took pride in telling me about that aspect of his life.
His wife died at 37 years old of heart failure, and he never remarried. He has a son and four grandchildren, including an 11-year-old who plays hockey.
I asked him, “What do you do when you are not working?”
Dave said, “I iron shirts and uniforms for three of my grandchildren.”
Work seems to be in his DNA and the essence of what keeps him going.
I ended up staying at FedEx three nights on the overnight shift, which I balance with two other jobs.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to see what kind of heroes surround you. With my son recently joining basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia, I needed a real life revelation of people I can look up to. Dave provided that by just being who he was, not thinking twice and encouraging new employees on their path.
Some nights we sort 10,000 to 30,000 boxes, an average of home delivery combined with other departments.
Dave Carter provided the example of what everyday living should look like, mixed with tenacity and strength.
Even though my legs get sore and my arms ache, I can smile because I am the young kid on the block, the second youngest of the main four sorters in home delivery. I also feel like a conqueror and know I will survive what I will face next.
Jane Hoffman is an educator, caregiver and internet radio host. She ran for Duluth School Board in 2015.