I'm a huge fan of the Christian concept of vocation: that God calls each and all of us to serve God by serving our neighbor in whatever roles we may have. So whether you're working or volunteering or a parent or sibling or student or friend or citizen - whatever role you have you can serve God by serving others.
I'm attracted to this idea because it elevates our daily work and effort. In the middle ages, Christian lives within a spiritual hierarchy. Yes, it was good to be a mother or father or bricklayer or whatever. But it was better to be a priest and even better to be a monk, and so forth. One of the things Martin Luther protested was just this kind of hierarchy, saying that God was just as pleased when a father changed his daughter's diapers as when a priest celebrated the Mass.
So I love vocation.
But I've also noticed that vocation can be a little problematic. A lot of this has to do with our tendency to reduce vocation to occupation. We may know that God calls us through all kinds of roles, but we tend to think first and foremost about our work. Which makes vocation a difficult category if you're unemployed, or retired, or if you don't like your work, and so on.
In the following video, director Tara Young and the artistic coop Etsy offer a mini-biography of Jim Power, a.k.a. the "Mosaic Man." Jim is a homeless person whose vocation has been to document the history of his neighborhood through his mosaics. I found this five-minute documentary moving because it reminds me that vocation isn't just about a job, much less how much a job pays or how influential it is. Rather, vocation, to borrow from Frederick Buechner (who in turn borrows from Aristotle) is where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.
Jim has found a place where his joy meets the need of his neighbor and community. It's not an easy vocation - enduring the hardship of the streets and the resistance of some city officials to his art. But the resilience he demonstrates in re-creating the mosaics that had been destroyed and the joy he shares with his community is both inspiring and instructive.
Watch this short film, if you have a chance, and give thanks for Jim's vocation and for the God who will meet us anywhere, willing to accept whatever we bring and use it to care for this world and people God loves so much.
Thanks to openculture.com for pointing me to this great video.