In Latin the word vocare is a verb meaning “to call” and is the fundamental root of our modern day word “vocation”. These days a vocation is often used as any term to connote work in a general sense, but it’s important to get back to the old, dusty Latin to bring fresh life to the word. To me, not everyone’s job is a vocation… although I believe pretty much any job can be.
It’s less about the job itself and more about your own personal feeling and passions towards that career. In other words… is it your true calling? The thing that gives you juice and life and purpose? The thing you cannot imagine NOT doing on a daily basis? The thing that while the money may be nice (or maybe even not so nice), you do first because it speaks to you on a deeper level first and on a financial level a very distant second.
Today was a day I was privileged to interact with two very cool groups of people at the Gengras Center in West Hartford, CT: the students who go to school there and the teachers for whom their work is their vocation.
The Gengras Center is (as their Web site describes) “a unique, special education program for elementary, middle and high school students with intellectual, developmental, learning disabilities, and related behavioral challenges.” I was invited over for their Career Day and to talk a little bit about my job. Now, I was a little anxious leading up to this as I was thinking, “How in the world do I make ‘ethics officer’ sound interesting and keep their attention?” I opted with the easy solution… free schwag. Shameless, I know, but gosh darn it, worked like a charm!
I handed out these squishy stress toy fire trucks (one of the products my company makes) and everyone seemed to love them. Believe me, I needed it. There were guys there with Harley-Davidsons and soldiers and the guy from ESPN next to me with the sports highlights and 2 laptops. I was just the dude in a suit next to a table covered in little foam fire trucks… but thank God for those suckers!
But I ridiculously digress.
I truly enjoyed myself today because of both groups of people I got to spend time with. First, the kids are fantastic and had enthusiasm and excitement to spend some time talking to me… even if I was not nearly as cool as a soldier in uniform. The smiles and their eagerness to introduce themselves to me just won me over instantly. I am very much hoping for an invite back at some point.
And the people working there? There is something that grabs my attention of seeing someone who is committed to what they do. It can be completely mesmerizing. During the moments where I was waiting for the next round of kids to come through, I did my usual people-watching where I observed the staff just going through the regular “stuff” of their day. I could see many staff members who just beamed when a kid smiled or was polite to one of the Career Day guests or did something well… and as corny as it sounds, it was heart-warming.
And that is a lesson in perspective, my friends. Those are people who are working one damn challenging job that would leave anyone drained at the end of the day… but those moments that I was privileged enough to witness with them being immersed in what they do and loving it? It’s inspiring and humbling all at the same time.
So the lesson I took from today is this: regardless of someone’s circumstances or the life they find themselves in, there is always a chance in any given moment for some real happiness (even if fleeting) to be found. Every single one of those moments, whether long or brief, is completely worth it and is worth taking a moment to savor.
Thanks to everyone today… students and teachers alike… who gave me a chance to savor a few of their own moments.