Answering the one, final question

Do you remember your first job interview? I don’t remember being interviewed when I joined the U. S. Coast Guard, other than “Have you had all your shots?” They didn’t ask, “Do you like ships and deep water?” “Can you follow orders?”

After I got out of the service, I went to a plumbing, heating and industrial wholesale company for my potential first job. I didn’t think I should wear a suit coat since I was applying for a warehouse job, but my dungarees should probably not look like I’ve been riding a freight train for months. I remember the manager asked what did I know about this company. Thank God, I researched a little beforehand and could give a reasonable answer.

I remember reading about another job interview. It concerned former President Jimmy Carter who desired to serve on a nuclear submarine. For many years every officer who wanted to serve on a nuclear submarine was personally interviewed and approved by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Navy.

Carter told about his interview with Admiral Rickover:

“I had applied for the nuclear submarine program, and Admiral Rickover was interviewing me for the job. It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover, and we sat in a large room by ourselves for more than two hours, and he let me choose any subjects I wished to discuss.

“Very carefully, I chose those about which I knew most at the time – current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, electronics, gunnery – and he began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty.

“In each instance, he soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had chosen. He always looked right into my eyes, and he never smiled. I was saturated with cold sweat. Finally, he asked a question and I thought I could redeem myself: ‘How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?’

“Since I had completed my sophomore year at Georgia Tech before entering Annapolis as a plebe, I had done very well, and I swelled my chest with pride and answered, ‘Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820!’

“I sat back to wait for the congratulations which never came. Instead, the question was asked: ‘Did you do your best?’

“I started to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several of the many times at the Academy when I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy, and so forth. I was just human.

“I finally gulped and said, ‘No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.’

“He looked at me for a long time, and then turned his chair around to end the interview. He asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget – or to answer. He asked, ‘Why not?’

“I sat there for a while, shaken, and then slowly left the room.”

More important than standing before an admiral will be standing before Christ one day to give an account of our lives. When Christ asks us if we did the best for him, what will be our honest answer?

Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese, and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.

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