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Yesterday I gave a final listen to this week’s show featuring the late Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue. I was struck in particular by his comments about work:

“I mean, we spend over one-third of our lives actually in the workplace, and one of the loneliest things you can find is somebody who is in the wrong kind of work, who shouldn’t be doing what they are doing but should be doing something else and haven’t the courage to get up and leave it and make a new possibility for themselves. But it’s lovely when you find someone at work who’s doing exactly what they dreamed they should be doing and whose work is an expression of their inner gift. And in witnessing to that gift and in bringing it out they actually provide an incredible service to us all.”

I started to think about people who embody what O’Donohue describes — people who are living their right livelihoods. Tap artist Savion Glover quickly came to mind. I saw him perform last year in Minneapolis and was captivated. He is so precise, fluid, and joyful in his dance, as you can see in the video above.

Thinking some more, I wondered about people who live out their gifts but aren’t so famous. Then I remembered a traffic cop I used to admire when I lived in Brooklyn who exemplified grace, playfulness, and good humor as chaos and impatience swirled around him.

Who comes to mind for you: famous or not famous? How do you express your inner gifts through your work?

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10 Comments

I had a difficult childhood and found a calling (of sorts) and became a pediatrician....every single day for the last 19 years I have started and ended every day knowing that I helped someone. Whether it be by protecting a child or helping a parent or treating an illness or promoting wellness (physical, emotional, and psychological), I can go to sleep each night feeling that I have lived my best day and have made a difference in someone's life. The most interesting thing about living my passion and my gift is that each day I leave work feeling that I GOT more than I gave. That, I believe, is the definition of a gift.

I had a difficult childhood and found a calling (of sorts) and became a pediatrician....every single day for the last 19 years I have started and ended every day knowing that I helped someone. Whether it be by protecting a child or helping a parent or treating an illness or promoting wellness (physical, emotional, and psychological), I can go to sleep each night feeling that I have lived my best day and have made a difference in someone's life. The most interesting thing about living my passion and my gift is that each day I leave work feeling that I GOT more than I gave. That, I believe, is the definition of a gift.

At one of my favourite restaurants, there is a three-stool bar tucked into a corner that has a complete view of the kitchen. I love to sit there late afternoon and drink tea and watch all the kitchen crew go about their business of getting ready for the busy night ahead. There is a quiet but swift fluidity in their movements, an air of anticipation, a love of preparing good food, and an almost religious observance for detail... very much what you said about your traffic cop, but accompanied by good music!

A line from Irenaeus of Lyons always comes to mind in conversations like this - where he says that "The glory of God is seen in a human being fully alive"... there are moments when I am involved in running residential retreats for people that make me feel like there is nothing more to be added to happiness - providing a welcoming space for discussion, dialogue, warmth, fires, North Antrim coastlines and woodland... it just seems to strike a chord of something rhythmic and rich for me.

This year a friend gave me Dave Isay's book "Listening is an act of love" - I tried (in vain) to limit myself to savouring one story at a time, but found myself being moved to tears over and over again at the simplicity of the storytelling.

If I can choose a favourite-among-favourites, it's this one about a bus driver in New York:
http://www.storycorps.org/list...

Thanks again for great interview with John. We all loved it when he used to come up to Belfast to give some talks... the humour,respect, insight, warmth, hospitality, and that magnificent laugh with his head thrown back - he embodied such humanity, and helped his audience and friends live their lives richly. This show captured something unique about him - wonderful production and both a poignant and piquant listen.

Pádraig, Belfast.

After working as a newspaper reporter and a fund-raiser, I stumbled into public health 17 years ago. When I was interviewing for the job, I was struck by the deep caring and commitment I felt among the people who were interviewing me. After so many years working in public health in N.C., I can honestly say that I have found my proper "place." Serving the "community as patient" in ways that improve the health of individuals, groups and whole communities is extremely rewarding -- and I work with some of the hardest-working, best people in the world.

I just finsihed replying to someone on facebook who had said that she wised she had enough money so that she wouldn't have to work. My reply was this: "I wish some money could fall on me so that I could spend every day doing work I love and am called to do. :) Some of that work might involve travel, internships, and/or creative sorts of work. There are so many things I would like to do, including opening a retreat center, hosting/producing my own radio program, painting, helping shelter animals, and writing books." And then I visited this website and found that the positive aspects of work were being discussed here as well. I really do think work can be a life-affirming and enjoyable part of life.

There is another dimension to this lovely reflection about living the right livelihood. I believe it was the apostle Paul who said, later in his life, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
I knew a lady who embodied this grace. Ruth experienced uterine cancer and a complete hysterectomy at the age of 16. Later, when she married, she knew her longing for motherhood would never be fulfilled. So she became one of the pioneering 'women in the workplace', and determined that the economic excess she brought into her and Frank's household would be lavished on children in need. She took in her brother's disabled daughter, providing the intensive care, education and healthcare that would have bankrupted the child's family. She provided unique travel and education opportunities to each niece and nephew. Ruth also developed a radar for other children in need, and found gracious ways to offer help without bringing shame or discomfort to the families. I was one of those children, and Ruth's heart of generosity taught me the joy of sharing or giving without reserve.
Ruth K. was very bright, and in another generation might have been an accountant, or a lawyer like her father. But Ruth earned the wealth she shared by working her entire career as the 'tool cage lady' in a factory, bringing elegance, humor and joy to her job every day.
Ruth never denied the sorrow of her personal loss, or the humbleness of her job, but in her acceptance of both she discovered the new potential and power afforded her, and lived her gifts to the fullest -- well into her 90's, still giving and sharing herself to the very end.

There is another dimension to this lovely reflection about living the right livelihood. I believe it was the apostle Paul who said, later in his life, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
I knew a lady who embodied this grace. Ruth experienced uterine cancer and a complete hysterectomy at the age of 16. Later, when she married, she knew her longing for motherhood would never be fulfilled. So she became one of the pioneering 'women in the workplace', and determined that the economic excess she brought into her and Frank's household would be lavished on children in need. She took in her brother's disabled daughter, providing the intensive care, education and healthcare that would have bankrupted the child's family. She provided unique travel and education opportunities to each niece and nephew. Ruth also developed a radar for other children in need, and found gracious ways to offer help without bringing shame or discomfort to the families. I was one of those children, and Ruth's heart of generosity taught me the joy of sharing or giving without reserve.
Ruth K. was very bright, and in another generation might have been an accountant, or a lawyer like her father. But Ruth earned the wealth she shared by working her entire career as the 'tool cage lady' in a factory, bringing elegance, humor and joy to her job every day.
Ruth never denied the sorrow of her personal loss, or the humbleness of her job, but in her acceptance of both she discovered the new potential and power afforded her, and lived her gifts to the fullest -- well into her 90's, still giving and sharing herself to the very end.

Cornel West is one of those Professors who embodies what you speak of . To watch him teach, inform, and enlighten is singularly a beautiful thing to witness. He can easliy bring tears to your eyes to watch him speak to an audience and swirl his words into thoughts that transfigure the audience into their own truth in action.

Years ago, on the precipice of turning 40, I discovered my gift for the written word. But here's the thing, I never really saw it as a "gift" until many years later after the accumulation of feedback, stories of readers who taken my words and used them as tools for personal transformation, had formed into a life of its own. I'm convinced that we each have a gift and maybe more than one. Our job is to step into these gifts, embraced them, and then share them with others because our actions have a greater impact than we might every imagine.

apples