Whenever I go someplace new or meet new people, I always get The Question, and I have come to dread it somewhat. The question ‘what do you do?’ It’s like we as a society buy into all the ‘what we do defines us’ stuff, and it comes out in the first question we ask a new person.
Now, I’m not completely innocent of this myself. Let’s face it, it’s often a conversation starter, and can help get a picture of a person. But for the person who doesn’t feel able to respond with anything much it can be at best cringeworthy and at worst depressing or even terrifying. You’re stood there thinking ‘she’d going to ask what I do in a minute, and I’m going to have to say nothing, and she’s going to be thinking this or that’ etc. When in all reality we know they won’t really be thinking very much at all apart from the mechanics of being friendly, because that is generally all it is.
I think there’s something deeper behind the whole question that makes those who feel they don’t ‘do’ less than useful. It’s like you have to do to be worthy, to be productive, to contribute to society. But do you? Is your worth in your productivity? I think not.
Creativity and productivity are of course important and beneficial to our humanity. But there is the question of who we are which goes deeper than anything we do. For me, how God sees me is 100% more important than any label I can give myself, and I know that God’s more concerned with stuff like compassion and justice than whether I have a job. And so that’s what I’ll strive towards, even in my worst times.
I keep pondering on good answers to The Question. For a while I really rebelled and told people I ‘slobbed round watching Jeremy Kyle and eating cake all day’, and for a while decided to be honest and tell people I used to teach but now I can’t because I have lung disease. But I don’t really like that one because it has undertones of not being any use any more. It’s also possibly a bit in your face to start listing health woes as soon as you meet someone, poor individual! So I generally mutter a bit about working in a team with Tim, doing bits and bobs of admin and voluntary work and web stuff etc, but that’s muffing it all up really, and again coming up with something that is endeavouring to label what I do, endeavouring to sound like I am of use.
One day I’ll have the bravery to answer something such as ‘what do I do? You mean who am I? A child of God.’ And that is where it’s at, because I don’t need to be more than that.
However, I know in reality I’ll keep dreading it and keep avoiding it and keep giving half answers. Because I’m English, and polite, and all that, and not very brave really. Never mind.