Today is my eighth anniversary working for my current employer, which I was reminded of when I started getting a whole pile of LinkedIn notifications from people liking my work anniversary (goes to show how often I think about such things, huh?). Eight years is a long time to be with one employer these days, and thinking about this the other day got me thinking about what’s happened in that time: what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, where I hope to go from here… all that kind of fun stuff.
Today, I thought I’d share eight of those random thoughts with you. I can’t promise anything particularly profound, but perhaps one or two might be helpful:
This is the longest I’ve ever worked for a single employer. The previous high bar was four and a half years, which was the job that I left to start this one.
I’ve only done three things longer as an adult. I’ve been in a relationship with Emily for nearly 16 years (which we will hit at the end of January), and married for over nine of those (our tenth anniversary is in May). My oldest daughter was born seven months before I started this job. And, prior to shuttering it a few years ago, I ran a graphic design business for eleven years. Those are the only things I’ve done longer as an adult than work for this organization: be married, be a dad, and run a business.
Before working in my current job, I had no idea I could write (or at least write vocationally). True story. I worked as a graphic designer before starting this job. And I didn’t start there as a writer—that came a few months into my employment, which was a surprise to us all. Turns out I’m not too bad at it. It’s not every job that gives you the chance to stretch yourself, so I’m grateful for that.
It’s literally the only job my kids have known me to have. Ever. That, in some respects, is pretty cool because they’ve been able to see a rare example of consistent employment.
You eventually get used to air travel. Now, my job doesn’t require me to travel a ton, compared to some of the folks I work with. But before taking this job, the only time I’d left the continent was to go on my honeymoon, and I’d only been on a plane at all a couple of times in my life. In the last eight years, I’ve gone to four different countries (five including America), and flown all over Canada and the United States. And what I’ve learned is eventually the novelty of air travel wears off. You develop favorite and least favorite airports. It gets to be normal… at least as normal as flying thousands of feet above the earth can be.
Working in a Christian environment is not holier or better than working in a non-Christian one. There’s lots I appreciate about working with Christians, but it can be challenging at times. Sometimes more than working with non-Christians, actually. On the one hand, it can be tempting to over-spiritualize everything; on the other, it can be tempting to get spiritually lazy and take the view of justification by (going to) work. And then there’s trying to navigate respectful disagreement on theological issues, seeking to encourage your colleagues in their faith, and on and on… It’s a different kind of environment, but it’s not more holy than any other.
You really do lose a “mission” field… so you’ve got to find other ones. Working with other Christians, you lose out on an opportunity to build relationships with non-believers. To make up for this, I’ve had to find other means of doing so. That’s why I consistently go to the same coffee shop on a near daily basis and why the Starbucks baristas actually know my name. I’m a regular because I want to get to know the people, and hopefully have opportunities to share Christ with them.
Poverty doesn’t diminish the personhood of people (rich or poor). One of the greatest joys of my time with this ministry has been getting to meet the incredible people who are my coworkers around the world, the pastors of churches it partners with, and children and families helped through its programs. What always stands out, no matter how many times I go, is that people are people. They’re not somehow less than North Americans because they don’t have all the extras we do here. They are not defined by their circumstances—and neither are we who live in places like Canada and who have disposable income. Rich or poor, we are made in the image of God. We are full of dignity and value. And we would be wise to never forget that.