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What Do You Do… For A Life?

I have never fully understood why we ask people what they do for a living. Why are we so interested in how people make their money? It’s as though knowing that, somehow tells us more; about who they really are how they live, what they stand for. Does it inform us as to whether or not they are a good person, interesting, important, successful, valued, worth knowing?

What difference does it make, how someone earns their money? How can that possibly provide any information about how they live or how they love, how they treat the planet or each other, how they give back or if they pay it forward.

How does knowing that someone is a surgeon or serving up coffee, teaching, singing, building furniture, or baking cakes, playing pro baseball, washing windows, selling cars, creating art, answer our most important questions. Does he love his wife? Does she treat her children with respect? Do they help their neighbour in need? Will he be there when she dies? Does she honour her friendships? Do they have peace? Can he pray freely? Why is she afraid? Are they feeding those who are hungry? Will they speak for those who cannot? Does she make them laugh?

Many of us make the mistake of equating what someone does with who someone is – we determine worth based on wealth. We make our assumptions based on how they make their money. We shower praise, offer respect, judge unknowing. If she is a nurse, she must be caring. If he collects garbage, he must lack education. If he’s a server, he must be struggling. If she’s an athlete, she must be dedicated. If he is the president, he must be ambitious. We decide on their level of contribution based on their level of funding. We measure success based on salary.

What if when we met someone, instead of asking them how they make their living, we asked them how they make their life; what do they do with their time, what brings them to their knees, makes them weep, keeps them awake at night, makes them laugh, raises their heart rate, who do they serve, what’s their bliss? Would we now know and understand them, have more clarity around who they are, what gifts they bring, what makes them whole? We would come to know them, and we would recognize their truth. And we still wouldn’t know how they pay their rent.

Let’s not assume we know someone’s story or their struggle, let’s ask them about it. How someone earns their money is just that; how they earn their money. It doesn’t tell us anything more than that or reveal any secrets. So let’s stop asking that question and start asking more important ones. Are you working for peace, saving the planet, raising conscious children, being kind, loving well, creating community, serving others, sharing your talent, moving toward health?

Next time we meet someone for the first time, let’s not ask them what they do; let’s ask them who they are.


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