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Article 1 of 15 in Series: Perspectives on Work, Worth and Faith
An earlier version of this article was originally published by thewitnessbcc.com in December 2019.
I am honored that my friends and colleagues across multiple industries have trusted me with their stories and have graciously allowed me to share them. While this series focuses on paid work, I hope you will notice that I define work by a much broader definition.
The interviews with each person have been edited and condensed for clarity. I hope their varied journeys, motivations, struggles, disappointments, hopes, and practical advice help us grow, provide insight, comfort, and stir hope.
But first, here’s a bit of my story.
Work and Worth
My husband recently called me a workaholic.
In short, he was right. At the time, I was balancing rental inquiries, client emails and scheduling, content-editing, and consultations. I was also conducting research and testing for a youth program in partnership with a local charity. I also research for fun, so my husband couldn’t tell when I was or wasn’t working. Sometimes, neither could I. To top it all off, we’d officially started home-educating our boys that summer.
In reality, work (particularly keeping busy and earning money) gave me a sense of purposefulness.Tweet
In reality, work (particularly keeping busy and earning money) gave me a sense of purposefulness. I saw my whole family and other families that looked like mine work their entire lives. How could I not? Even though my body hadn’t quite recovered from our second son’s birth and I was still dealing with health issues/struggling on and off with depression, I couldn’t stand the thought of not working. I still can’t.
Instead, I considered stepping back but was quite aware that stepping back was a luxury too. It was something I couldn’t do when financial ish hit the fan earlier in our marriage. Some days, I felt extremely guilty for even considering it. My heart would hurt for those who didn’t feel like they had that choice. It still does.
Eventually, my husband and I talked; I was able to step back a couple of months ago. Thankfully, at this point in our lives, I was able to do that and I’m better for it.
Work: A Second Home
From the age of four until the time that I left Jamaica at 12, I would be out of the house by 6:30 a.m. My parents would drop me to school every morning on their way to work and pick me up from school on their lunch breaks and drop me to my grandma’s home. After my last visit to Jamaica, I realized this was quite a feat given the distance between my old school and grandma’s home. Let’s not even mention the traffic on the way there and back. I believe this is why, as I got older, instead of dropping me to grandma’s, my parents would bring me back to work with them.
I remember my mother’s job being eerily quiet. It probably wasn’t the best place for a highly inquisitive child, who wanted to touch everything, write on every paper, or ask five questions at once.
My dad’s workplace was a little more forgiving (as far as I know). I would either sit at his desk with my homework or better, move from office to cubicle and chat with some of his co-workers. Usually, it was a combination of both. It was the first place I heard him cuss. I still remember my shock. It’s like he became someone else, someone more than daddy. It was a glimpse into his world, the world of adults.
So naturally, as a child, when I heard the word work, I thought of long hours, paid work outside of the home. In recent years, I’ve come to realize that work and the qualities we ascribe to it are often limited and relative.
“Work, in its most basic form, can be any activity requiring your physical and mental effort for a specific purpose. This means we can find work anywhere, from the office to the kitchen sink, whether it is passion or provision driven.”
Beyond the Basics
Work, in its most basic form, can be any activity requiring your physical and mental effort for a specific purpose. This means we can find work anywhere, from the office to the kitchen sink, whether it is passion or provision driven.
However, I’ve noticed that work often echoes tidbits of our personal identity or desires we wish to fulfill. Essential functions and provision seem only to be the foundation.
For some, work is a way to lift themselves or their families out of poverty. For others, it’s about building wealth, status, or legacy. For some, work is about proof: proof of competence, ability, intelligence, worth, equality. For others, work spearheads change: change in lifestyle, change in our families, change in our local communities, change globally, change in our systems, secular and sacred.
For others, work spearheads change: change in lifestyle, change in our families, change in our local communities, change globally, change in our systems, secular and sacred.Tweet
For some, work is creativity on display, whether as a writer, artist, or performer. They want to tell nuanced stories and give ideas life through clay, song, or ink. For others, work is about searching out this world, every atom and organism, every motive and action, every algorithm and hypothesis to gain further insight into how we as humans interact with the world, to encourage innovation and explore possibilities.
The ways we approach work aren’t limited to those I’ve mentioned, so feel free to insert your own. I’ve often found myself with an odd combination of those reasons at different times in my life and if I’m honest, this makes it hard for me to stop working. It brings me a sense of excitement, fulfillment, grief, and exhaustion (Eccl. 12:12).
We should ask ourselves what work teaches us about ourselves and life. How have we allowed it to define us (good and bad)? What is its purpose? I hope these questions and the stories I will share, resonate, inspire, and summon deeper discussions about work and its worth to us.
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