“We are blessed to have the privilege to serve others. And it is a privilege. There is no higher calling.
From that kernel of truth, I’ve no choice but to wonder: is it naïve to think that we might conceptualize our professional lives differently? Is it possible that the question “what’s best for me, for my career, for my life?” should pale in comparison to the question “am I doing the most good I can possibly do?”
– Sasha Dichter, Acumen Fund
It felt appropriate, following my little ramble on goodness yesterday. Dichter’s whole entry is actually worth the read (http://sashadichter.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/the-spirit-of-service/) but I’m just going to zero in on this one snippet.
Do I re-conceptualize my work life?
Absolutely, and constantly. Dichter says a poignant thing when he talks about how, “We’re wired, fundamentally, only to experience fully the reality in front of us.”
This can’t be any truer in my case, when what is in front of me rotates between spreadsheets, databases, word documents, and social networking websites (hah!). So some of the more meaningful things I ingest are the inspiring nuggets of wisdom and truth I stumble upon on a TED talk challenging us to re-conceptualize what we do for living, and use our skills and talents, preferably, to serve others.
It’s the daily dose that gets me through.
The temptation of course, once I’ve dug myself deeper into the doldrums of administrative work (for a good non-profit, mind you), is to jump ship entirely, or re-think how I’d personally re-invent the wheel, saving myself (and maybe others) from a work-life that ought to have a “spirit of service” but instead, a soul-sucking means to an unidentifiable end.
Whether I like it or not, it begs that second question, of “what’s best for me, for my career, for my life?” when really, I should be asking the third: “am I doing the most good I can possibly do?”
And the answer to the latter, I find, is both yes, and no.
Yes, in the simple sense that I am doing what I’m paid to do, and doing it well (enough). Here is where I am exercising some degree of self-grace. Given my position, for all its structure and limitation, I think I’m pushing back at the periphery and stretching out my bubble as far as I can.
No, in that there’s more to be done and I want to be one (of many) to do it. Beyond the expectations listed out in my job description, I’m after the liberating satisfaction of knowing that I’m putting forth my best and whole self, for the sake of furthering a best, and holistic, service.
There is simply too much work, and we’re running out of time. We’re running out of time, because too many kids are growing up too fast to know what it’s like to be a kid and have basic necessities of food and clean water, stable shelter and clothing. Too many youth are turning into adults without the right to education, without the fruitful experience of a job, and the rewarding experience of a paycheck. And yet, too many adults are growing older, faster, not knowing where their life had gone and what they had worked for other than to accrue wealth and share it with no one.
I admit, these are pretty broad generalizations and any adult can defensively, and understandably exclaim, “That’s not me!”. Fair enough. But even if we were all doing our part to at least see all children as our children, too many of those kids grow up never actually believing that they are cared for, that they belong. And I can’t blame them, either, for ever wondering why they weren’t.
I care for them to know, that we do, and that we’ll come through.
I do what I can, now, within the confines of my cubicle (pretty sure I’ve said that before), to advocate for the youth I know here at Covenant House, and the youth I’ll never meet, still on the street, still wondering if someone cares.
I do it by filling out spreadsheets with names of all the different adults who’ve expressed some degree of interest at caring, and I’ll bother them, over and over, about our work and the kids.
There will be a day wherein I’m no longer sorting columns and re-formatting letters of thanks. One day, I pray, I won’t have to make cold calls to anybody, though, I should probably prepare myself for that really critical one I’ll have to make in the future to some CEO of some Fortune 500, waiting for someone just to ask.
The day that this work, is over, would simply mark the day that another work, for me, has begun. And I pray that on that day, I commit to doing even more good than I had before.