Picture: Theme Photos (creative commons)
For most of us the phrase ‘caring profession’ probably brings to mind jobs like nursing, teaching and social work. But this list is far too small. Remove the ‘care’ element from other occupations and people get diminished, especially the most vulnerable. I discovered this afresh recently when I talked to Sarah, whose everyday life becomes hell when you and I fail to care about the work we do. Whatever your job is today, treat it as a caring profession. Here’s why.
Fixing Lifts is Social Work
Picture: Adrien Ledoux (creative commons)
Sarah is a friend of mine who consults to the NHS on matters of disability. She knows her subject well. Sarah has a rare condition that causes her shoulders and joints to continually dislocate. Each moment is painful, each hour is a challenge, but with the aid of carers, an electric wheelchair, and a remarkable sense of humour, Sarah manages to face each day.
Sarah had a meeting in London recently. Her carer came early to help her shower and dress, then Sarah rode her wheelchair through the rain to the bus stop, huddling under a shelter that was too narrow to keep her dry. Experience has taught her to leave early for these meetings. Often a broken ramp or an occupied wheelchair spot means she must wait for a second or even a third bus to take her to the train station.
Picture: K. Mitch Hodge (creative commons)
Arriving at the station, Sarah went to the lift—and found it broken. Again. She had booked assistance ahead of time, so why hadn’t anyone told her? With no way of getting to the platform, she was told to take a taxi to the next station, forty-minutes away. A taxi was called. A half-hour later it hadn’t arrived. Even if it did, she would now miss most of her meeting. Sarah gave up and went home.
While this would be a uniquely bad day for most of us, Sarah estimates that a third of her travel attempts get disrupted like this, through a broken lift or ramps not being there to help her off the train. Sometimes she’s treated as a nuisance for needing assistance. She’s often close to tears.
That ‘Menial’ Task Matters
Picture: Brina Blum (creative commons)
When we think of the ‘caring’ professions, most of us probably think of nursing, teaching and social work jobs. I’m starting to believe this list is too small. In the Christian view of things, humanity’s great purpose to ‘love God and love others’ is most naturally expressed through our work. That means making sandwiches, mowing lawns, changing tyres or painting walls aren’t just ways of earning a wage but opportunities to serve. That means fixing lifts and dragging out ramps aren’t inconsequential tasks but caring professions in themselves.
Picture: Michał Parzuchowski (creative commons)
There’s a guy at St Pancras station who watches out for Sarah, making sure she has a clear path through the ticket gate. Once, while stranded at a station due to yet another broken lift, a staff member arranged to divert Sarah’s train to another platform so she could get home. That’s love.
Most of us want to live meaningful lives. Here, I believe, is the answer. View our jobs as just a wage and people might soon become annoyances to us. But when we see our jobs as an opportunity to love, the most everyday tasks become holy enterprises.
- The Leonard Cheshire charity estimates that 40% of British railway stations don’t have step-free access. You can join their campaign to change this here. (If you know of similar campaigns in your country please list them in the comments and I’ll add them)
- I first shared this story on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show. You can hear the segment here