Finding Meaning in Meaningful Work
What does it mean to be a development worker?
If you read this blog with the hope to have this question answered, I am sorry to say that I do not know the answer. Nor am I close to understanding the full meaning of this query. This was the reason for the inaugural episode of my podcast, Up In The Air.
It will be a lifelong pursuit of discovering this puzzle, as it is for any profession one may have.
When I started work, I was hopeful, idealistic and wore rose-coloured lenses. Two months on, I am still hopeful. Less idealistic but I continue to hold onto my ideals—values that I staunchly believe in. Lenses have now been wiped to reveal more transparency. Admittedly, there is still fear, apprehension and a decent amount of disbelief that the Lord granted this wish and allowed it to come to fruition.
One of the things I’ve realised so far is that no training, no amount of reading, no pep talk can ever trump experiences that shapes and perfects us to fit the mould of the job.
I have asked myself numerous questions so far; questions such as “Do you understand the work that you said yes to? Do you see the implications of your yes? What is truly important? What if you fail? Why are you doing this work?”
Deep down, there is a sense of urgency. I am emboldened to do so much more. It is disconcerting to hear the stories of people whose lives are being uprooted. I am moved but I am also angered. I am left helpless. How did it come to this? The government should have done more and better! In witnessing this disservice, I have cultivated a desire to understand it so that I may defy it. More than compensation, what exactly do we owe these people? Accountability, reconciliation, opportunities? These are and may never be enough.
I acknowledge that am still a bystander. There are numerous things that I still need to understand and immerse myself in—to study what it means to be for and with the people we hope to support and help. I will never completely know what it means to put myself in their shoes. Expectations brought about by years of living abroad need to be chipped away to expose new soil—fertile ground—to plant in. I cannot be of service to others if I am not willing to grow and be pruned.
There is a common trope in aspiring development workers. They are often assumed to romanticise foreign aid and development; perhaps a prejudice formed due to their messianic zeal to help others. One of the things I have been careful to disassociate myself from but at times may be trapped in. Of course, I want to help alleviate poverty in the world. I want to profoundly transform lives. I want to make lasting change. Needless to say, I know now that there is no need for false heroics. We do what we have to do all with the hope that in the end, we do not become indifferent or desensitised to the plight of those who truly need our help. Daily, I pray that I will always have the heart for others and that I may never intentionally choose apathy over the impetus to produce results and accomplish my work.
Lately, I’ve been finding peace in the words of Yael Danieli who wrote, “When you see the immense suffering of those we are attempting to help, we are morally and emotionally compelled to put aside our own fears.”
There is no room for doubt or fear when we know that the lives of people are directly affected by the work of our hands.