Over a decade ago, I began meeting with a spiritual director named Karen that a friend recommended to me. Since that time, Karen has become a dear friend and we met for lunch last week to celebrate our upcoming birthdays. During our conversation, she mentioned that an important question she asks herself regularly is, “What is mine to do?” I asked her to repeat the question and came home and promptly wrote it down.
“What is mine to do?”
I love this question so much because it has hope at its core. The question assumes that work has been carved out for each of us do. It also presupposes that not everything is ours to do. When I see all of the suffering in the world, I sometimes get so overwhelmed that I feel paralyzed; because I can’t do everything, I don’t start anything. The question my friend Karen asks can help narrow down our purpose.
The question also assumes that the work that isn’t mine to do is someone else’s work to do; it isn’t work that is forgotten. I find this very comforting.
“What is mine to do?” is a question that piques curiosity in me. It feels interesting and not burdensome. It feels like an adventure.
I also love that it vibes with what I have been taught about vocation and “call.” It has been instilled in me that we are all called to service for the greater good, but that each person’s specific call is unique. Our hearts are tugged towards something or someone where our innate gifts and life experiences are well suited to serve. We can’t drop it or walk away. It’s our work to be done.
There are a few times in my life that I had no doubt that the task before me was my work to do. It certainly wasn’t because someone guilted me into it; I was compelled to get involved. It didn’t always make complete sense, but I was drawn to it like a magnet.
These tugs on our hearts aren’t reserved only for big challenges or life-altering work. Ordinary, daily offerings of love are also part of our calling. I have a friend who is amazing at stopping whatever she is doing and sitting beside someone who is having a hard time. I have seen her sit on kitchen chairs and bathroom floors and playground benches to simply listen; she is so gifted at mending broken hearts.
These small acts of compassion can make all the difference. I love the poem by Julia Kasdorf called “What I Learned from My Mother” that states:
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds.
We have all been called “to love the living.” I pray that the work we are each called to do will be made abundantly clear; I pray that we will each respond with joy.