Finding Joy in Your Vocation

By Ray Hendriks  |  November 18th

This is a tale of two waiters in two restaurants I visited on a recent golf trip—one somewhat up-scale, the second a hamburger joint. Both were busy as we entered with our group of 20. 

Tyler was the waiter in the first establishment. He was well dressed and greeted us professionally. But as the evening progressed, Tyler struggled to serve us. Orders were confused, meals were cold and service was slow—his demeanor was less than enthusiastic. It became apparent that Tyler was not fully engaged in his work. For Tyler, this was clearly just a job, perhaps a stepping stone to his next career move. 

Stephanie was our server at the hamburger joint. As we found places to sit, Stephanie took control of our noisy group of 20. She had worked here for over 33 years and knew the menu well. We were treated to stories and suggestions as she took our orders. Service was quick and accurate, while the food lived up to Stephanie’s billing, and she was a delight. By the time we departed, the restaurant was packed with clients, most of whom were greeted personally by her.

The contrast between these two waiters struck me as ironic, as just at that time I was reading David Brooks’ The Second Mountain. In this book, Brooks speaks about the difference between career (the first mountain) and finding your vocation (the second mountain).

Brooks describes career as assessing your skills and testing the job market to find your fit, which shapes how you will direct your career. The goal is to follow the incentives as you climb the career ladder and get the highest return on your investment of time and effort. If you succeed, you reap the rewards: respect, self-esteem and financial security. Our first waiter Tyler seemed to be chasing what Brooks defined as career (albeit our young waiter was not doing it with great success).

It was very evident that Stephanie at the Riverside Café fit Brooks’ description of vocation. The Café was clearly a gathering place where relationships were encouraged and respected. Stephanie may be reaping the financial rewards of good tips, but that was clearly not her driving force; she loved people and service.

In thinking about each of you, I rejoice in your commitment to this vocation of school leadership. But I know this is a mantle that can sometimes be wearying. As we enter this last 6 week stretch before the Christmas Break and schools are busy with the routines of report cards and parent-teacher interviews and the days get darker with winter looming, it is easy to allow the idea of “career” to take over our demeanor. However, may you be buoyed by the calling found in this your vocation of Christian school leadership, and find joy in the many relationships and moments of service that fill your days.