You may have a job which is a job, and is largely functional. You may have a role which isn’t a job. Your role or job may fulfil sense of vocation for you. Or you may have a vocation which is pursued in any free time you have available. Whatever the case may be, as far as I can make out a person’s vocation is not a hierarchical matter. It simply cannot be. What we have seen in recent days and weeks are that things are not always as they seem. One job or role is not inferior to another. As far as I can see each job and vocation sits in parallel to others. As far as I can tell we are recognising that we are on a level playing field, we can look each other in the eye from here, and cheer one another on, which is as it should be.
And, strangely, we are applauding those who normally don’t get to receive applause or accolade. And yet, there remain groups of the ‘un-applauded’. Those who never receive any actual applause for what they are glorious at. Not many folk do. It is all the more important then, that we nurture what is good in each of us, what must prevail because it is woven in our very soul.
We need reminding of our unique gloriousness, because for one reason or another we may find ourselves, or others, at our lowest ebb. Not the best version of ourselves. We may watch all our patience and goodness fly out of the nearest window. That person when we were at our best, seems smudgy and dim. And so, even though our vocation matters, (and we may have more than one), it is very good to remember that none of this depends solely on any one of us. This only works and slowly gets better if it entirely depends on all of us.
This may be in the form of the NHS where 98% of the work is unseen by almost everyone, accept maybe a handful of colleagues and those who are cared for. The vocational home of the healthcare assistant, the nurse, the porter, the housekeeper, the cook, the doctor, the chaplain, is to offer their care and concern, energy and expertise for those at their lowest ebb.
These times, also see folk at their lowest ebb because isolation is keeping us safe, but also making some things harder.
So there are those right now whose vocational home is to look out for those struggling with their mental health. And there are those whose vocational home is to stand up and fight for those who experience domestic abuse. And there are those whose vocational home is to support and advocate for individuals with learning disabilities and their families.
You may never hear of them,
because not all that is good is seen.
Nor may you hear the names of those who collect our recycling, and those who drive our food and fuel to where it is needed. Or those scientists who are working on a vaccine. Or those creatively reworking their business for such a time as this. Or those volunteering and diversifying their skills to do what they can.
Or the earth. The earth that has begged for our attention. The earth which is at its lowest ebb but still supports the fields that grow crops to feed us.
You may have had a chance to physically walk the earth more than usual, to breath it in, the smells, the sounds. You may have tangibly touched the earth, dug in the soil and planted some seeds. You may have noticed how it is messy and rough and loving and dependable. The earth and the plants and bugs and animals who live on it, they know what their vocational home is and they are true to it.
They remind us that not all that is good is seen.
That not all growth and life happens above ground.
You may never hear of them.
But being heard of or known is not what having a vocation is about. Making a contribution to the whole is what matters, doing what makes your heart sing. So this may be tending to the earth in your garden, or the birds, or the farmer working the land. Or it may be the carer of the person with dementia, or the single parent who is home educating, or the teacher of key workers children.
You may also find that this virus has caused you to be locked out of your vocational home, unable to work as you did. You may be trying to figure out what are the roots and the deep meaning of your vocation and creatively exploring how this transcribes into these times, and beyond.
Whoever you are, your voice is necessary, it is yours and yours only to sing.
So, though we may never hear your name,
may we hear your song,
and those you sing it for.
‘Keep the earth below my feet, let me learn from where I have been. Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn’ (Mumford and Sons ‘Below My Feet).