A good friend of mine (I'll call her Katie) is a Director at a Fortune 500 company. She has an exciting, responsible, highly compensated position which - for the most part - she enjoys. Like many of us, however, she occasionally wonders if she should be expecting/getting more from her work. She wonders if she could be more passionate about her work.
We were discussing Katie's search for passion the other day and she mentioned that lately she has been volunteering at a local non-profit organization that teaches women from disadvantaged circumstances how to prepare themselves for and secure employment. She really enjoys sharing her knowledge of the corporate world with women who have never had her experiences, and coaching them on how to research a job opportunity, prepare for an interview, and get off to a successful start in a new job.
She was musing on whether she should try to find full-time work in a "helping profession" so that she could experience her newfound passion more regularly.
Inwardly I groaned to hear her asking this question. Why? Several reasons. First, she actually likes her work in the corporate world, and she is really good at it. Second, her company needs her. She has a robust talent set that would be very hard to replace in her position, and - despite thee recession we are in - corporations are still struggling to find good, honest talent for many positions. And third (last but certainly not least, if you will) she is a single woman with a mortgage to pay and a retirement to secure and her corporate work is going to take much better care of her than a job in a human services agency will.
But those are all very practical considerations, and not points that I felt would help further a helpful, encouraging conversation with my friend. So instead, I simply asked:
"If you take a job doing human services work, what will your ministry be?"
Katie asked what I meant by the question, so I explained. From a human development perspective, there are many elements that go into creating a robust and satisfying life. These include:
Close relationships with family/friends
Living in an environment that is safe, nurturing, and feels like "home" to us - this includes our house, neighborhood, climate, etc.
Autonomy and competence - the capacity to exercise self-determination and care for ourselves. For many of us, our income plays into this element of life in a big way. Put another way, I could call this element "daily bread")
Mental Stimulation - Using and developing our intellectual capacities to understand and solve complex problems is a great source of joy for many people.
Creating beauty - Humans were endowed with creative powers and we can express them through music, art, cooking a meal for loved ones, gardening, decorating our homes - the possibilities are endless. But if we don't find avenues through which we create beauty, our lives will feel flat.
Ministry - the freewill offerings we make that we believe will help others and benefit the world.
Let me reiterate - we need these things in life in order to have a robust and satisfying life. If for some reason one of them goes away, we need to replace it.
In Katie's case, her work to help women prepare for and secure employment is her ministry. My theory is that the fact that she freely volunteers her time is part of the reason she enjoys it so much. I believe that all of us need to have something that we give to the world with no strings attached. If Katie switches jobs to work at the human services agency, she might find she enjoys her daily work more. Or she might not. Either way, once she starts helping the women for her paid employment, she will need to establish a new ministry in her life.
For now, Katie is staying in her current corporate position. She also continues to volunteer and is enjoying it more than ever now that she views it as part of her ministry in the world.