Serving with Joy and Putting Bread on the Table

October 22

Frodo’s offer to take the Ring of power to Mount Doom is noble, heroic and iconic. A desire to make one’s life count is at the heart of every life.  But, like Frodo, we do not know the way we are called to make a difference. We intuit, and rightly so, that we are each of us gifted in unique ways; each one feels that s/he has something to give that only s/he can give. That something is a calling, or vocation.  

My Dad’s vocation was farming, which he continued through sickness and health until his mid-eighties. Farming was always new and interesting for Dad, trying new seeds, new methods, discussing practices with other farmers and scientifically analysing the outcome. In his vocation he was making his life count, caring for the earth and feeding the world.

For Dad his vocation was also how he provided for his family’s needs.  Many people feel a bit lost when they have not found a vocation that pays the bills.  In her practical wisdom my mother used to say to her grand-children, “What’s wrong with the vocation of putting bread on the table?”, in other words, providing for our families. Living day by day in right relationships may seem small and unimportant but it is the foundation of all forward-moving, positive development in the world.

The difference between “vocation” and “job” is articulated in this quote of Churchill’s, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”  It is nice when your work is your vocation … but when you have found your vocation you will do it whether or not you are paid.

Many, maybe most people do not make a living from their vocation. Some examples of unpaid vocations are: parenting, care-giving of family members, welcoming new neighbours, gardening, leadership/governance as board directors, letter-writing, visiting the sick, being a Guide, Scout or 4H leader, making spaces attractive, making music or art.

Some vocations change over our lives as our life situations change. In his last years, Dad’s primary vocation became looking after Mom, who had dementia. In the long-term care facility where they both lived, he maintained his love of farming by wearing his rubber boots as he watered the raised vegetable boxes in the enclosed yard and by checking in with his sons for news on their farms.

From a young age children begin to daydream about what they will “be” when they grow up, meaning, what will they “do”.  Spirituality and spiritual practices are more about “be-ing” than “do-ing”. The nineteenth century French mystic, Theresa of Lisieux said, “My vocation is love.” How we live is more important than what we do.  In time the how we live and the what we do will merge and that will be our vocation. We make our mark on the world by living into our own authentic selves. 

Gratitude Prompt: In what way do I serve others that brings me joy?