Work as Vocation

The celebration of Labor Day began in 1882 in New York City by the Central Labor Union.  It took a few years, but by 1894 Congress passed an act to celebrate the role of workers on the first Monday in September. Most observances were celebrated with festivals, parades and picnics to honor the work and creativity of the American worker. I hope you have the opportunity to do some celebrating today!

In light of thinking about work, I thought of a wonderful passage from the writer and theologian Frederick Buechner. We have many books in our collections by or about him, but one, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC is a favorite. He writes about “vocation” when he gets to the letter “V”.

“[Vocation] comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

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2 Responses to Work as Vocation

  1. Kevin Young says:

    Thanks Liz,

    I just happened to read the “V” section of Buechner’s Wishful Thinking in preparation to teach a Field Education class. Seeing it again on you blog makes me wonder if the lesson was for me and not just my students!

    Keep Writing!

    • lleahy says:

      Kevin – Thanks so much for your encouraging note! I’ve been traveling over the past two weeks for the university and am a little behind – but ready to get writing again. And, when I re-read Buechner I was always learn something too. Blessings to you! Liz

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