Whatever your job is today, treat it as a caring profession
For those of us looking to find fresh ways to reinforce the whole-life discipleship message in our churches, Sheridan Voysey’s recent blog post has some really helpful thoughts.
With Sheridan’s kind permission, I’ve reprinted the whole piece below. Of course you can pick it up from his website . You might want to read it first.
I really appreciate Sheridan’s writing and very much enjoyed including ‘The Making of Us’ as part of my summer reading.
Sheridan conveys a story so well.
In ‘The Making of Us’ he is sharing part of his own story.
In this recent website piece he’s telling one particular story from his friend, Sarah.
In both stories, Sheridan finds light and the potential to look up where others might only look around and see darkness.
I read the story below through the lenses of a pastor/preacher. For any who play either of these roles – there are surely some quotable and useable ideas here:
1. Imagine the power of telling everyone in our congregation, paid or unpaid, that they are in a ‘caring profession.’ ‘Whatever your job is today, treat it as a Caring Profession’.
2. Imagine encouraging our people that ‘fixing lifts’ (or a thousand other tasks we could list) can be social work.
3. Imagine telling something of Sarah’s story and encouraging all our listeners to be the guy at St Pancras and look for their ‘Sarah’ stories this week.
The verse that came to my mind whilst reading this piece was Ephesians 6:7.
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.
The most relevant association with this verse might be somewhat hidden by this NIV translation.
The Greek word translated, ‘wholeheartedly’ carries with it the sense of serving ‘with good will’– about half of the modern English translations pick this up.
If we are called to work and serve with good will, that then requires us not just to do the work and task well, but also to think about people.
You can’t repair a lift feeling good will towards the lift shaft , the cables or the pistons but you can repair a lift with good will to the owners or to those who will use it and benefit from your work. In that sense, fixing lifts is social work. Hence every job can be a caring profession if we serve with good will.
Again it is worth remembering that the context in Ephesians 6 includes slaves.
In the longer term, the equality message in the Bible speaks so powerfully that a direction of travel is set in motion such that slavery is unsustainable with our Christian faith and believers are rightly at the forefront of the movement of ending slavery (and still should be wherever it is found today). But in the short term, the very fact that slaves are included in this chapter and are instructed to serve their masters with good will, is both astonishing and challenging. It means we can and should challenge our people that they are in a caring profession this week, wherever they find themselves, even if they don’t feel called to the role they currently find themselves in.
Here’s Sheridan’s piece below:
Whatever Your Job is Today, Treat it as a Caring Profession. Here’s Why
For most of us the phrase ‘caring profession’ probably brings to mind jobs like nursing, teaching and social work. But this list is far too small. Remove the ‘care’ element from other occupations and people get diminished, especially the most vulnerable. I discovered this afresh recently when I talked to Sarah, whose everyday life becomes hell when you and I fail to care about the work we do. Whatever your job is today, treat it as a caring profession. Here’s why.
Fixing Lifts is Social Work
Sarah is a friend of mine who consults to the NHS on matters of disability. She knows her subject well. Sarah has a rare condition that causes her shoulders and joints to continually dislocate. Each moment is painful, each hour is a challenge, but with the aid of carers, an electric wheelchair, and a remarkable sense of humour, Sarah manages to face each day.
Sarah had a meeting in London recently. Her carer came early to help her shower and dress, then Sarah rode her wheelchair through the rain to the bus stop, huddling under a shelter that was too narrow to keep her dry. Experience has taught her to leave early for these meetings. Often a broken ramp or an occupied wheelchair spot means she must wait for a second or even a third bus to take her to the train station.
Arriving at the station, Sarah went to the lift—and found it broken. Again. She had booked assistance ahead of time, so why hadn’t anyone told her? With no way of getting to the platform, she was told to take a taxi to the next station, forty-minutes away. A taxi was called. A half-hour later it hadn’t arrived. Even if it did, she would now miss most of her meeting. Sarah gave up and went home.
While this would be a uniquely bad day for most of us, Sarah estimates that a third of her travel attempts get disrupted like this, through a broken lift or ramps not being there to help her off the train. Sometimes she’s treated as a nuisance for needing assistance. She’s often close to tears.
That ‘Menial’ Task Matters
When we think of the ‘caring’ professions, most of us probably think of nursing, teaching and social work jobs. I’m starting to believe this list is too small. In the Christian view of things, humanity’s great purpose to ‘love God and love others’ is most naturally expressed through our work. That means making sandwiches, mowing lawns, changing tyres or painting walls aren’t just ways of earning a wage but opportunities to serve. That means fixing lifts and dragging out ramps aren’t inconsequential tasks but caring professions in themselves.
There’s a guy at St Pancras station who watches out for Sarah, making sure she has a clear path through the ticket gate. Once, while stranded at a station due to yet another broken lift, a staff member arranged to divert Sarah’s train to another platform so she could get home. That’s love.
Most of us want to live meaningful lives. Here, I believe, is the answer. View our jobs as just a wage and people might soon become annoyances to us. But when we see our jobs as an opportunity to love, the most everyday tasks become holy enterprises.