When people ask me what I do for a living, I am never really sure how to answer. Which part of it shall I tell them and which part do they want to know about? Sometimes I can sense that they are investigating whether my answer is worthy of their time and attention. Sometimes I serve up what they need and all is well from their point of view. But what about my point of view? I had so many years trying to get to work, I was economically inactive ~ such a dreadful term and felt worthless because of it. The striving to part of the well working world has dominated all my efforts more than 30 years.

When we ask people what they do ~ that is often a misleading question. Maybe we could ask them what they love to do? What gives them joy? Who gives them joy? Which place gives them joy? These are open ended questions that almost always elicit positive answers. They are powerful instigators of conversation and empower both parties.

I often ask people ~ tell me about you, your world and the things that bring you hope. That gives them a scope of creativity from which to reply and doesn’t merely limit them to an occupational choice that strong health has sustained.

I’ve seen countless examples of people doing their most significant work in the world when they are not in paid employment. Retirees running food banks, mentoring young people and running churches.

In our case, I believe that my Mother’s care has been the most important work I have done so far. Trying to negate her immense suffering and doing all the running for that. These had no economic value but all the loving value you could count. Taking her funeral after many hundreds of other funerals was also significant because that was a combination of loyalty, vocation, purpose and true work.

My Father had the most illustrious professional career. A degree in maths and a research degree in nuclear physics. Yet I see his most important work as figuring out her very complex meds and the routine needed for that ~ the equations were astounding to see and beyond any medic we encountered. Education and formal training are always worthwhile, and you never know where those skills might be used to great worth.

Someone once said to me that I was drain on the taxpayer because I was a perpetual student. It took me months to recover from that attack. There was a presumption that because I didn’t have a conventional job that I was of no worth. The suffering, restriction and struggle meant nothing to this accuser whilst they lived a life of abundance.

I’ve had other comments about not having any children and a complete lack of any sensitivity to the pain that it could have caused me. AND YET….all those comments showed me was a level of judgemental ignorance and that making your own work in this world has value. Paying my tax bill each year feels like a badge of honour to me, not because I was bullied into it, but because I worked into it. The numerous medics told me that given my physical condition, it would be impossible. Ironically, they were almost as wrong as the attackers, despite their kind intentions. Please remember that you define you and your worth because you are here. That gives you purpose and the people that really matter, value your presence as a gift.

Seeing the stress caused to brave people about their tiny incomes from allowances and care packages makes me seethe with anger. Their plight is unjust and then to use dog whistle tactics to malign them is morally reprehensible. Anyone can become ill. Anyone can have an accident, even the people seeking election who use the most marginalised in society to elevate their own position. Of course, there are people who work the system and behave recklessly. But please, know that the system is now so brutal that it is often barbaric to those who are most vulnerable in our society.

So, in the season where big promises might be made by people whose track record in leadership has been severely poor, I would urge you to think about what matters most in life: integrity, wisdom and courage. They are the values that make for life and for making a living. I wish you an abundance of them all. Your work might just be to endure, be an example or a teacher to those instructing your care. Your job, work, purpose and role can all converge into goodness when used well.

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