Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Everything about it speaks to my soul as we pause to give thanks for so many blessings, among them having a purpose, meaningful work to do, a reason to get up every day.
Meaningful work falls into two categories: you’re either providing a service or meeting a need. If you’re fortunate, you can provide both. If you are in a position to receive both simultaneously, it can be life-changing. That has been my experience this year.
Until you have the need for their services, you cannot comprehend the impact of those who serve in the hospice industry. November is National Hospice Month. I have profound respect and awe for its employees and volunteers, especially since my mother has come under their love and care.
Similarly, I was blessed this month to have spoken to the Seasoned Saints, a group of older adults with huge hearts and willing hands wanting to explore their gifts and how they can be impactful in their later years. Being retired does not reduce the importance of what you do or the impact of your life on others. As actor Mandy Patinkin recently said on CBS’s 60 Minutes,”As long as there’s one person on Earth who remembers you, it isn’t over.”
There is a column I have saved for years (written in 1989), by E. M. Houtz that speaks directly to the blessings of work. Once you have been unemployed, you will never consider a bad day at the office in the same light again. Work provides us with a purpose and community. It meets our need to be needed.
For those amazing hospice employees I have had the honor to work with, and those who wonder if what they do every day (gainfully employed or not) really matters, this one’s for you:
My friend Pat has been a nurse for many years. She works for an agency that provides care for people who have terminal illnesses, whose life expectancy is less than six months. A gentle and warmhearted woman, as well as a skilled nurse, Pat is well-equipped for the very special kind of work she does.
One day Pat was telling me that she was having a difficult time making a choice between her job and some other factors in her life. One of the options she felt forced to consider was quitting her job, or changing to another kind of work. “But if I stop doing this,” she said, “who will take care of these dying people?”
Pat has a clear sense of the importance of the work she does. She knows that caring for sick, dying people is not something everyone is willing or able to do. She knows she is needed.
Not every job is as clearly valuable and as inherently rewarding as Pat’s. Many people in the working world have a hard time seeing the value of what they do. They know they receive their paychecks in return for their work; at the same time, though, they hope for some sense of satisfaction, some knowledge that all of their time and effort amounts to more than just a dollar figure, however needed that may be. They want their work to be a contribution – a part, however small, of something meaningful…..
Each of us as a working person creates something each day. Whether we type a letter, draft a plan, or make a sale, we bring something into being that wasn’t there before. That something may be tangible, like an article for a newspaper, or a customer’s bill, or a report we’ve worked on for weeks. Or it may be intangible: a new relationship with a co-worker or customer; a new way of handling invoices; a new action plan, developed after long hours of meetings with other staff members; or a series of decisions that will affect many people. Whatever we create, because our lives are consecrated to God, our work is consecrated too.
But the product of our work isn’t the only important part. The process of working bears fruit, too. We have an impact on the lives of other people as we interact with them in the course of our jobs. We influence those around us by the quality of the work we do and the way we live our workday lives. We exercise the skills and talents God has given us. We have the opportunity to put His commandments and His love into action in a setting where, for the most part, He is not recognized or known. We face new situations every day that challenge our Christian values, our self-control, our creativity, and our compassion; and out of the challenges we grow stronger and more mature.
Best wishes for a very BLESSED and Happy Thanksgiving!
~From the desk of Becky Morlok~
Honoring the staffs of Hospice of the Upstate, Anderson, SC and Transitions/Hospice of Wake County, Raleigh, NC