“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” —Howard Thurman
The romantic in me likes to think that if we all do the work we love, and each of us takes a turn at the work no one loves, then everything will get done in a fair and equitable manner. The realist in me says that’s easier said than done, and perhaps not even possible.
In the past month, I’ve taken some big steps in the journey of returning to parish ministry, “the work I love.” My candidacy paperwork is in order, and I will be meeting with the WRSCC in San Francisco in October. After a long period of vocational despair, it feels good to have an achievable goal in sight.
During my time away from parish ministry, I’ve had some jobs that did not make me “come alive.” In fact, they stole life from me. When I visited the Center for Ministry career assessment people in Seattle, they said that working at an administrative job was stealing my joy, and that I needed to find some other form of employment.
Since we moved to Girdwood, it’s been my “job” to be the homemaker–I shop for groceries, walk the dog, take care of the laundry, make dinner, clean the condo. Some of those things I enjoy, and some I don’t. I like to cook; I don’t like to clean the kitchen. I like to shop for groceries; I don’t care for lugging them home and putting them away. I don’t like any of the housecleaning chores, and I’m not particularly good at keeping on top of them.
My life right now gives me time to write, to read (both for fun and for the MFC), to volunteer at the Anchorage UU Fellowship, and to make progress on my return to parish ministry. I’m very lucky, because vocation is an option. So many people are trapped in “work,” without hope of ever having the luxury of listening to the inner voice that says, “This is what you were meant to do.”
And the world as we know it depends on them remaining trapped. It depends on secretaries and waitresses and migrant farm workers and people who stand in an assembly line dismantling chickens. It depends on contract workers doing time in cubicles. It depends on people who work on deep-sea oil rigs that just might explode. It depends on coal miners who might get stuck, forever, underground.
Those of us lucky enough to be free have a deep obligation to those trapped in the deadening mechanisms of our greedy, growth-hungry consumer society. We have an obligation to get our hands dirty in the hard work of changing the world.
I think we do need to ask what the world needs. The world needs those of us who are free and (relatively) well-off to use our freedom and our resources in the service of change. And if we do so, I believe we will discover ourselves coming alive.