I like to work hard. And I like to do a lot of things, not just one. My pattern with potential employers is fairly consistent, they quiz me about all of the work and volunteering I do and wonder if I will be there for them. Some even write it in my contract. Then six months later the employer comes back to me and explains that I am working too hard and need to slow down. The pattern is such that I often find the process kind of amusing. My family and friends don’t think it is amusing, they worry in my effort to demonstrate how hard I work they won’t see much of me for that first year. They also worry that my employer will take advantage of my passion for the work and my work ethic. They worry that the employer will pile it on just to see how much I can do. Colleagues can do the same, take more “me-time” and ask me to cover the “knuckle-head” stuff. This happens.
Given that I work hard and that the employers in my chosen fields, the non-profits and the churches, are growing older, shrinking, and that I will just keep doing whatever amount and kind of work that is put in front of me I can and do get taken advantage of. It happens a lot and for the most part it does not matter to me since I love what I do. But down the road it can and does factor into decisions like how long I choose to stay at that workplace. In my chosen fields someone who works especially hard is considered an asset and can usually find work.
I am not especially gifted, I have but two gifts, the ability to work and work and work and a very good memory. I should say I am exceptionally loud. That might not seem relevant unless you consider that most churches and senior’s residences are filled with people who are very hard of hearing. Unless someone is stone cold deaf they can hear me. These three assets would not have mattered years ago. In previous generations of church I would be lucky to find a post anywhere. I am odd and odd is not very attractive in a middle class culture like the United Church, not in the non-profit sector either. Institutions like the church had plenty of resources, people and financial, so being especially hard working, having a good memory and being loud would not be all that extraordinary.
But today the church in decline finds the status quo, a manager, a “professional leader” to be more of that same. Of course someone with real talent, a great preacher, a visionary, a Bible scholar, a theologian, a community leader, s/he would be as sought after today as in yester year. I am clearly not that kind of Minister. But there aren’t that many Ministers around these days with those skills. That leaves good and competent people and odd ducks like me. With more and more work left to the Minister to do as volunteers disappear someone who loves to work and can work and work and work is suddenly a positive thing. People these days will put aside the “oddness” for the other more attractive qualities.
There can be a nagging sense that what people really value about me is my work and not my personality or me personally. But because I love the work so much I don’t tend to let that bother me. I have work that makes me excited to get out of bed every day and make the connections with people and for people that I believe would make the earthly Jesus very happy and be in tune with our Creator’s intention for this beautiful and yet broken world. I get a lot of respect for how I do what I do. I also get a lot of encouragement, people like to cheer me on. But I worry what would happen if the output suddenly slowed. That’s why I look at 2025 and realize that even though I would love to do this work until the day I die I will not be expected to do it the way I do it for much longer, the pressure to do it this way will end in 8 years. Who knows what will happen then. I may not even be alive then. But hopefully I will have served the church during those years in a way that made all of feel connected, more whole and alive to the possibilities God places before us.