Tuesday, March 4, 2014

For The Ones in the Hard Jobs

This is a note for my friends in the hard jobs.

Those of you who serve food to impatient customers who have no idea that you couldn't even afford to buy that same food yourself without risking having your lights turned off in your too small, barely safe apartment.

Those of you who chose to step into the schools to try to change the lives of love-needy kids and now find yourself controlled and silenced by a system that seems to make impossible anything that looks like creativity or love.

Those of you who are told by a manager or a colleague that you're stupid or not enough just because someone once said the same thing to them, and they've been handed the power to use you as their route to run from their own shame.

This is for you– and maybe for me.

You are not named by where you work. No matter how many hours a week they ask of you, there is more to you than where you spend a certain percentage of your time in order to garner a paycheck.

And you are not the sum total of how well you fit the societal norm of "successful." Our particular version of career success is new and particular to our culture and it will not last. You will. You are an immortal soul, burning brighter than the elusive top of any corporate ladder ever could.

And you are not worthless just because the decision has been made that your labor is only worth as much as minimum wage. You often do things harder than anything the airbrushed elite face: you get out of bed early, stay out late, go without meals even when you ache from hunger and exhaustion, and still have to smile at all those who turn their (often unseeing) faces towards your service.

You are so much braver than they give you credit for.

And you are changing lives. The currency of compassion is rarely – maybe never – quantifiable results. The time you exchanged kindness for a customer or coworker's cruelty and they still curled their heart inward in spite? That may have embedded itself where you can't see, will never see, but that doesn't erase the fact that it's there. And I can hear the cynics answer "but maybe it didn't make it anywhere past their skin–" but maybe things like compassion and grace have so much inherent value that even their lack of response to it can't detract from its beauty.

Just in case you wondered, you don’t have to stay there forever either. If your heart keenly aches for a different channel for your time and your elusive energy, you will find it. People have a lot of jobs over the course of their lifetime. Not all of them suck, but even the ones that do usually lend experience to undergird the ones that don’t.

Maybe most of all, to you-- the soul-weary, the desperate, the trampled on, the invisible, the frightened-- I’d say the same thing I wake every morning trying to tattoo on my own heart:

you are not what you do.

You are so much more than that.

May we walk in that grace, my friends.

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