The Mouse Room
by Jesse L. Smith
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“Better it is to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” –Proverbs 16:19
I was excited to have landed my first big job in the biotech industry, and as I was being led around the building by co-workers I felt for the first time that I had an ‘honorable’ job at a good company. Up until that point I had my fare share of ‘lowly’ jobs, and it felt good to finally be working somewhere that was respectable. It didn’t take long however for me to figure out that like anywhere else, there was a ‘pecking order’ at this company, and as a Chemist I only landed squarely in the middle of the hierarchy. It turned out that the building itself was organized in such a way as to physically segregate the different ‘classes’ that made up the company. Upstairs of course was the lofty home of all the scientists and executives, and immediately below we chemists made our abode. The outer reaches of the building were dedicated to the packaging and manufacturing groups, but in one remote and hidden little ‘nook’ of the building the infamous ‘mouse room’ was hidden.
It turns out that the ‘mouse room’ workers were part my work group, and so it was my responsibility to know their job – and help if necessary. The first time I entered the room I was greeted with the most ghastly sight of my life… Aside from the foul odor of mice stacked in cages row by row, the workers themselves were busy pinning down the carcasses of the recently euthanized beasts for a ‘surgical procedure’. The mice with their distended abdomens were cut open, and brownish ascites fluid was then sucked from the bloody cavity and transferred to a harvest container. This was the sole occupation of the poor ‘mouse room’ workers, all day, every day. Leaving the room I thought that this must be one of the most wretched jobs on the planet.
The mouse room workers were often overwhelmed with the number of mice that needed ‘harvesting’, and so predictably I was called upon to ‘help’. The first time I sat down with the ‘mouse room’ workers I thought to myself, ‘…this is not what I went to college for’, but then I remembered that I was no better than these workers , and that it was only by God’s grace that I had made it through college at all. So reluctantly I donned my lab gloves and face mask and began the dreadful task. My compassion for the mouse room workers kept me there as long as they needed help, but as I worked with them I realized that as a group they had something special that was absent from other parts of the building. At first I wasn’t exactly able to pinpoint the reason why, but I soon began to enjoy the company of the mouse room workers more than anywhere else in the building.
Because the company was so compartmentalized in its structure, the ‘cultural’ differences between workgroups could almost be compared to the cultural differences between countries. One would think that those workgroups who were the most highly compensated would be the most cheerful and friendly. But in truth it was exactly the opposite – as one would walk by the packaging area it was not uncommon to hear laughter and cheerful conversation. In contrast, the ‘upstairs’ atmosphere was cold, rigid, and unfriendly. In terms of ‘upward mobility’, these groups clearly had the advantage, but it seems that for all they had they still lacked something very basic. It could be argued that the ‘mouse room’ represented the very lowest class in the building, but I soon discovered that where pride is absent, joy is present.
Among the mouse room workers, there was no room for pride, but there was room for love. Consequently they enjoyed the company of one another, and although they were not always happy about their job prospects, they probably enjoyed their jobs more than anyone else in the building. The ‘upstairs’ environment however was filled with pride, and lacked love. Working at this job I understood for the first time the heart of God, and why he loves the humble so much. God Himself is Love – and looks to those who have a heart like His own…
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