Last week, my daughter Abby started a new internship at Covenant Hospital here in Lubbock. Over the next several months, she’ll rotate through different departments to learn about what they do and potential employment opportunities they have. There’s also a classroom training aspect where she and the other interns (all young adults with developmental disabilities) will learn about important work-related behaviors, personal management techniques, and other “real life” skills. If she impresses a department manager, she could be offered a position at any time and become a full-time employee.
When Abby graduated high school in May, she immediately wanted to focus on getting a job. While other graduates spent their summer swimming, traveling, and hanging out, Abby went to work. Don’t get the wrong idea; there were plenty of summer fun activities happening in and around the Voland household. But Abby also managed to squeeze in another five week work program at an elder-care facility and works two or three shifts a week on a snow cone truck.
As we were driving to the hospital for her first day, Abby simply couldn’t contain her nervous energy. At one point she asked me “Dad, why do some people not like to work?” She was referring to some of her friends who been given similar opportunities over the summer, but turned them down. Instead, they stayed home all day, watching television, playing video games, and sleeping.
I had to admit, I don’t know why others might choose to skip such opportunities. As I often do, I turned the question back to Abby. “Why do you think you are so interested in getting a job, especially when your friends aren’t?” When I got to work, I wrote down her response as best I could…
“It’s a way for me to make money. I like to pay my own way. It gets me out of the house so I’m not bored. It puts my mind to work and I can learn new things. I get to meet new people and help them. I have something to talk about with you and Mom and other people. I don’t know. I guess I just like to work.”
I think my daughter captured the essence of what meaningful work is. It goes beyond just earning a paycheck. When we’re engaged with the work we do, our effort pays us back in so many ways – emotionally, socially, mentally, even spiritually. Abby’s off-the-cuff response has made me really think about what I do and why I do it. Am I here just for the money, or is there something more significant that I’m chasing?
I’ve never been one for just checking the box. I don’t like doing a job just for the sake of getting it done. I enjoy digging in and pursuing the larger picture represented by my occupation. I want to be part of something big. And I enjoy collaborating with others who feel that same sense of purpose in what they do. I want to be around others who feel the same passion.
Like Abby, I like to work. I hope you do too.