Guest Blogger: ~ Anna Livia Brady
St. Josemaría Escrivá always had a way of prompting his followers to bless every aspect of their work by putting their best effort into whatever they were doing. He said that every vocation is meaningful, whether you’re a mother, a priest, or a single person.
Young professionals are called to this same mission — to view their daily tasks as gifts to be given back to God and to take any unpleasantries that come their way in stride. Over the past nine months of working, not only have I learned about bookkeeping, customer service, and medicine, but I’ve also realized that even small things, when done with cheerfulness, can better the lives of my colleagues and the atmosphere of the workplace. Here are just a few of the practical ways I’ve been embracing Christian zeal at work and how doing so has made my daily work so much more meaningful.
1. Converging Kindness and Candor
When I first started at the front desk, I was easily intimidated by my perfectionist manager, the frazzled patients, and even my competent colleagues. If patients were confused or if co-workers had a problem with me, I would often respond with, “I am so, so sorry. You’re right. I need to work on that. Thank you so, so much.”
Over time, I noticed that while the statements above sounded nice, they weren’t entirely precise. I knew I could do a better job, and I didn’t need to waste peoples’ time with unnecessary apologies. Instead of perpetually using fluffy language to please others, I came up with strategies to improve and make life a bit better for others. I’d accept the mistake, offer a solution, and make sure not to repeat mistakes. This method also worked with agitated patients, for whom I added the step of acknowledging their feelings. I’d say something like, “I apologize for the inconvenience. I know that waiting this long can be frustrating. Would you like me to bring you a bottle of water in the meantime?” Daily phone calls, emails, and patient communications have taught me something valuable – no matter their status, age, or interests, every person wants to be heard. A listening ear and sincere language can help everyone feel safe and welcome.
2. Making the Workplace A Bit More Like Home
There’s a modern notion that your work colleagues are a bit like your family and should be treated accordingly. While I disagree with placing as much importance on your co-workers’ needs as you would with your siblings or parents, living solidarity in the workplace can help to prompt a certain feeling of responsibility. If you stop viewing your workplace as four walls, a cash register, and a handful of employees, you start noticing little ways to make your environment more pleasant for everyone. Luckily (or unluckily, I should say), in light of the pandemic, it’s easy to integrate habits for helping everyone have a more pleasant experience. Wiping down tables and chairs, organizing brochures, and even printing out on-call doctor sign-in sheets helps everyone understand that our facility is as professional as it is friendly, and that patients are making a wise decision by doing business with us.
A workplace may not be anyone’s true home, nor should it be. But it should be viewed as a place you’ve been trusted with, somewhere that deserves your respect and attention. Once the basic tasks are finished, I look for ways to make the lobby and front desk a little brighter than they were when I punched in. Sometimes, I’ll even gift the break room with Trader Joe’s ice cream cones or a potted succulent. Everyone loves to feel taken care of!
3. Stewardship > Ownership
In countless parables, Christ has warned us of the dangers of materialism and greed, even stating that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Now, I’m not a wealthy person by any means, but if my desires go unchecked, I could easily spend half of my paycheck on personal goods that I don’t even need, and this selfishness can transfer everywhere – at home with family, in relationships, and especially at work.
When we feel entitled to things for no other reason than “I deserve it. I’m great”, then we take on less responsibility at work, squander our resources, and adopt a negative attitude that affects everyone and everything around us. No, thanks!
Thinking of the fruits of work (your salary, time off, corporate benefits) as privileges rather than inherent rights will equip you with the humility necessary to perform your duties as God intended you to. Acknowledge the gifts he gave you – your personality, your warmth, your quick mind, and understand that these gifts aren’t just for your own sake but serve a bigger purpose outside of yourself. By shifting my mindset to stewardship above ownership, I’m able to pay off much more in student loans, be a better team player, and direct God’s generosity right back at him.
Working in an administrative job can have its moments, from soothing anxious patients to rectifying financial mistakes. Some days can feel rote, while others can feel hectic. But by following Saint Josemaría's example and employing sincerity, diligence, and stewardship, I'm able to go to work every day with a smile on my face and leave knowing I made a difference. I'll end with one of my favorite quotes from the beloved saint: “Let me stress this point: it is in the simplicity of your ordinary work, in the monotonous details of each day, that you have to find the secret, which is hidden from so many, of something great and new: Love.”