Work as Service

The waiting game has started up again this week. It was good to take a break from it, and it was also good to have an enforced break from worrying. Having a cold meant not having the energy to fret (or do much of anything else!). It’s funny how sometimes you don’t realize how chronically stressed you’ve become until the stress lifts for a while. I’m hoping that having a fuller awareness of the feelings can also help me get beyond them, even as life goes back to more familiar patterns.

It’s also interesting to notice the effects of the daily news cycles on mood, energy levels, and overall attitude. Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I had a bit of a break from all of that. Looping back into it today definitely made me notice – again – how much chronic stress I was carrying, which no doubt all of us are carrying in one way or another. It’s impossible to justify living in a bubble and not keeping up with what’s going on in the world, but at the same time, overload happens so easily. There are so many conflicts and problems, so many things to feel concerned, anxious, and angry about. The world is simply too big. How much can any one of us do to help with all the need that exists?

A brief sidebar: for the past five years, I’ve worked as a church choir director. I started the job pretty much because I was in the right place at the right time. At first it definitely was “just a job,” which I did because I had the necessary skills and needed the money, but things started to change a couple of years ago. I continue to have many questions about religion, and many concerns about the way Christianity presents in the world. I’ve had the chance, though, to work with people for whom faith leads to action and a commitment to working for social justice and the betterment of the world, especially the lives of the most vulnerable. The work has become more than “just work,” and has gotten me thinking more, all the time, about the other kinds of work I do and how they might make a difference.

ocean view 2

Last night, I went back to my increasingly-usual brainstorming about writers’ workshops and the idea of writing, and storytelling, as a type of ministry. The various rounds of thinking I’ve done about it have started to feel like going in circles, but a couple of newer ideas did join the mix.

I know how to teach craft, and I love teaching it. I love helping people to tell their own stories, fictional or real life, and make those stories as strong and compelling as possible. I love the fact that writing can help us to know, accept, and embrace our own truths. Then there’s the kind of community that evolves in workshop: the fact that people of very different backgrounds can come together to cheer, help, and encourage each other in the telling of their stories. And the fact that, in doing so, they connect with and see one another in new ways.

My biggest question is how to use all of that and do more with it. As hard as it can be for me to admit, I’m good at what I do. I want to make a living doing it; my husband and I need that, and there are things I’d like us to be able to have and do. In thinking through these things yet again last night, it struck me that the most useful way for me to approach my work is to see it as a form of service. It’s so easy to get caught up in anxiety about self-marketing, hustling, and whether you’re desirable enough and unique enough to “make it.” My brain doesn’t work that way. It does work when I ask myself how to use the skills and tools I have as instruments of healing, in a world that needs it.

ocean view 1

If anything were possible, I’d love to create some huge workshop where people from all over the world could come together, share stories, support each other, and form the kind of community that, up until now, I’ve only seen in microcosm. It’s delightful to imagine, though I can’t quite picture how anyone could create something like that. But I’m going to keep puzzling at the question.

Stories, written and shared, can make a difference in and of themselves. They can be instruments of healing in various ways: helping people to see and think about things they haven’t before, helping people to get through tough times, helping them get out of their own heads when they’re trapped in unhealthy thought patterns. Communities of storytellers take the singular power of one story and multiply it. There’s so much work to be done, and words can do a lot to create positive change in a fractured world. I’m going to figure out which piece of that work is mine to do.


Photos by Paul Faatz



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