VERMONT innkeeper Jack Coleman, a Quaker, has worked at some of life's lowest jobs, searching for ``the dignity of all human beings.'' Today, in his large, rambling establishment called The Inn At Long Last, you may find him doing just about anything: cooking breakfast for the guests, paying the bills, answering the phone, or carrying in the luggage.
Mr. Coleman is a former college president and chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank. He has had prestigious positions as a labor economist and head of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and he has written seven books.
Coleman has also been a garbage man and a street cleaner. Abandoning his normal life style for two to four weeks at a time, and ``living somewhat in disguise,'' he says, he has dug ditches in Atlanta, washed dishes in a Boston restaurant, worked in prisons, and collected garbage in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He has worked on an oil rig in New Mexico, as a miner in a marble quarry in Wyoming, and as a construction worker at a sewage disposal plant in New Jersey.
These sabbaticals satisfied a longtime desire ``to walk in other people's shoes,'' says the innkeeper, a lean, tall man with a close cropped beard and silvery hair. As president of Haverford College in Philadelphia for 10 years, Coleman often urged his students to take time out to vary the rhythm of their lives.
``I got a range of satisfaction from those different jobs,'' he says. ``First there was the basic pleasure from proving to myself that I could do something well, a physical job. It was a sense of accomplishment all on my own, without the glib words of persuasion and without using my con-tacts.