After fourteen years out of the workforce, I started a new job a few weeks ago. I haven’t written about it because the change is so new, I wanted to be sure I stuck with it. I habitually quit things—historically, much to my husband’s chagrin, I quit jobs.
My feelings about it lie fresh on the surface, like a new layer of skin after a sunburn peels away. On any given day, I gently inspect tender pink feelings of working mother guilt, sadness over the delay of my full-time writing dream, and elation over the fact that people actually pay me to leave my house wearing real clothes a few times a week.
I studied to be a nurse, and in a sad twist of fate, I realized upon graduation that I hated wiping bottoms and inserting catheters and pretty much everything related to my career. But, I didn’t hate helping people. And so I stuck with it, plugging away at awkward hours of the night, bone-weary, covered in bodily fluids.
Even after eight grueling hours on my feet caring for the sick and infirm, I clung to the belief that my hands built permanent things. Healing may be temporary, but making a difference in someone’s life gave me a sense of purpose and permanence. Nursing is a noble profession, truly one of the most servant-hearted, Christ-embodying careers across all fields. And I couldn’t cut it.
Fourteen years later, after building many other things, like children and book chapters and endless essays, I found myself in a position of needing a part-time job. A friend mentioned a new role at my church, and quick as a blink, I had the job. I send emails. I organize stuff. I manage calendars. I do not use my nursing degree or my hard-earned parenting skills or many of my writing ones either. But, I don’t hate helping people. In fact, I love it.
I am a drop of water in the raging river of a large, dynamic organization. If I don’t show up, anyone else can fill in the space I leave behind. Even though my work feels small, it makes the greater work of the pastors possible. I help create space so they can care for souls. Together, we build permanent things.
Fred Rogers famously said that one way to cope with frightening news and terror-inducing situations is to look for the helpers. Look for the people who re-build rather than tear down. Look for those with hands of mercy, those who reach out with a cup of water, who offer a kind look, who love with the spirit of a servant.
I’m discovering that most of this helping work is done in the quiet, in the smallest of ways. It isn’t flashy. Others may never even notice. It is simply joining your droplet to the larger body of water, contributing to the greater work. It is leaving behind the impermanence of degree and titles and chain of command, and using our lives to build something that moth and rust won’t destroy. In God’s Kingdom, we build permanent things.
Kimberly Coyle is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle, Facebook, or on Instagram @kacoyle.