We should offer kind words to the people who enrich our lives
During her interview about two years ago, our excellent marketing coordinator at the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center offered one of the best answers to the question “Why do you want to work here?” She said: “I am looking for meaningful work.” Margaret remembered the phrase “meaningful work” from her Jesuit education at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma. This phrase evokes a very important Catholic teaching. Our work on earth is an opportunity to participate in the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work of creation and redemption.
A mother feeding a newborn child is expressing God’s love for that child. A teacher shines light on God’s truth for his students, and a gardener helps to open our eyes to God’s beauty. Being aware of the meaning of our work makes it vastly more satisfying, and that satisfaction can make us more effective.
Rosalie, one of our housekeepers at the retreat center, provides a good example of this. When she cleans one of our guest rooms, she says a prayer for the person who will occupy the room next — that they will grow closer to God during their time in the room. By doing this, Rosalie finds meaning in her work and enjoys it all the more. This works for us as people of faith. But it can work for others as well.
We all want to make a difference
Because God designed us to participate in his saving work, each of us, deep down, shares the desire to know that we are doing something good and worthwhile — that we are making a difference.
Unfortunately, there are many times that our work doesn’t feel so meaningful. As the columnist Mike Royko once quipped, “If work is so great, how come they have to pay us to do it?” Far too often, whether at work or at home, we feel unappreciated, as if we are working hard but no one really cares. For people of faith, this represents an opportunity.
See, in business and our personal lives, we need relationships to get results. No matter how strong our skills are, we need help. Not just from time to time, but every day. Large businesses depend upon cooperation within departments. Small businesses depend on customers and suppliers. Spouses depend on one another. Parents depend on the cooperation of children to make a home successful.
In each of these relationships, an exchange of material goods and services can be important. Businesses provide goods and services to paying customers. Parents and children rely on each other for mutual care and support. Employers pay employees, and employees work. But if all that is happening in these relationships is an exchange of material things, something is missing: meaning.
Something we can all afford
In our business and personal relationships, we have the opportunity to help others find the meaning in their work. When we see them making a difference, we should take the opportunity to tell them about it. Everyone likes being appreciated!
One of my daughter’s teachers tells his students that the thank-you notes his students send him fuel his energy for teaching. He calls those notes his “second paycheck.” They tell him that he is making a difference, touching lives, doing God’s work.
Each of us can give the people who enrich our lives that second paycheck. Certainly if we have supervisory responsibilities at work, we can do this. When we catch someone doing something right, we should tell them.
I like to use the “when you do this, that happens” formula. For example: “When that customer came to you with a problem, you were friendly and went the extra mile to meet their needs. That shows that we care. It satisfies the customer and helps the bottom line. Thank you.” This approach demonstrates that we have noticed the good work done by a member of our team.
We don’t have to be a supervisor to use this approach. It’s great for our children, too: “Thank you for cleaning up the kitchen after you made a sandwich. It shows how responsible you are and that you care for our family.” It also works for the people we do business with: “Thanks for the great haircut. It makes me look and feel better!”
Whenever we can, we should offer kind words to the people who enrich our lives. It’s a second paycheck we can all afford to offer!
Northwest Catholic - October 2015
Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: email@example.com.