Sometimes in life, we need to pay for things. Simple, necessary things, like school, a mortgage, food, or a car. In order to pay for these nice things, most of us need jobs. Some are gifted with a job that is right in their chosen career path, while others of us need to work a simple, menial job just to pay the bills. I have been in this situation for the past three years, working for Community Natural Foods, a health food store in Calgary. While there are days that I complain about not having my dream job yet, I am often floored by the incredible blessing that this company has been to me. It has taught me several important lessons that I really want to share with all of you today.
1. The Value of Work
This is going to make me sound really old, but I have found much satisfaction in just going to work each day.This is definitely a lesson I had to learn through experience. I have been working since I was 13, but always thought of it as a necessary evil, something to avoid if at all possible. It has only been in the last year or so that I have been able to enjoy work for its own sake. There is a simple joy in the small tasks that I perform day in and day out. The work itself isn’t particularly satisfying, but bringing home a pay cheque to provide for my family is. While stocking shelves and moving pallets may not be incredibly important in the grand scheme of things, having work to do is a blessing for me and my family. Not everyone is employed (I was unemployed for three months before this job) and having the option for my wife to say home after our son arrives is great.
This seems to be a lesson that many of our generation need to learn. We have been told since we were young that we can do anything and that we should do what we love. However, we have not been taught that sometimes we just need to do what needs to be done until that job we love shows up. Life isn’t going to hand us our dream job right away (even though we worked really hard in university for it), and waiting for it isn’t going to help either. Sometimes, we just need to get ourselves out of bed, make money, and slowly make our way into our perfect career. It takes patience. We need to remember that.
2. The Importance of People
I work with an amazing group of people at Community. We come from all walks of life, from high school and college students to retired teachers and restauranteurs. For those days where the job itself isn’t energizing, the people will most certainly breathe new life into me. I have been able to talk freely about my faith and listen as others articulate their own. We are challenged by each other, encouraged by each other, and loving of each other. We are tolerant of others’ viewpoints (no one has killed anyone else yet…) yet we aren’t afraid to disagree as we dig deep into spiritual, political, and social issues. I am overwhelmed by the love shown to me by so many of my coworkers, many of whom stop me daily to ask how my wife is feeling in late pregnancy. It’s little things like this that make life amazing.
Is it always easy? Of course not. Sometimes it gets a little awkward when we hit a subject that someone is touchy about. But jokes, challenges, and secret missions are always just around the corner. You don’t have to love, or even like the people you work with, but the job becomes so much better when you do. Try making a new friend next week and see what happens!
3. The Stewardship of the Planet
This is really just Christianese for looking after the Earth. I’ve learned so much about the importance of organic, ethical food practices and their impact on our ecosystem and the human population. This may seem obvious, considering it’s a health food store, but it’s more than just hippies and yoga instructors in our store. Our location is in the suburbs, and we cater to more soccer moms and yuppies (young, urban professionals) than you would think. The movement away from cheap and easy food sources towards organic and local has the West more aware of where its food is coming from and how it got to its shopping cart. As someone who has always been interested in the environment, this is a really cool development in our society. I certainly hope that it continues.
4. Faith is Lived Out Everywhere
Finally, I’ve realized that for many of my coworkers, I am one of the most visible Christians in their lives. Sometimes this is obvious: I work with a woman from Israel who has dubbed me her official source of Christian thought and history. Yet other times it is not. I was stopped by one of my coworkers (who is also a Christian) to tell me that her faith has been bolstered because I talk so freely about faith at work. I had no idea, but the affirmation was really cool. Sometimes it’s hard, especially when I realize that my work ethic and how I treat people influence what my coworkers think about my religion. Sometimes it’s exciting, because people feel free to ask me blunt and difficult questions (probably because I’m training to become a pastor).
We are ambassadors for our faith. I understand Buddhism through the lens of my Buddhist friends. I learn about Islam through my Muslim friends. I examine atheism by examining my atheist friends. This is probably not the most scientific way of going about studying religion, but it’s what we all do. So, how are you showing your faith to those around you? Do they even know what you believe in? If not, why not?
And so, for those of you currently in a job that is not in your career path, what are you gaining from it? If you are currently unhappy with your work situation, I suggest looking for ways to make it better. I don’t suggest leaving, because I don’t think that will necessarily help. But can you look for ways to find joy in your little tasks at work? Can you make good friends with whom you can laugh and struggle together? Can you connect to the mission of your workplace, or realize your position as ambassador for your faith? Try it out, see what happens. Maybe you will make a friend along the way.