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When Work isn’t Work

April 27, 2010

Every so often I meet someone who has been in a job for decades. I wonder what magnet, anchor or seal connects them for so long to the same place, people, and responsibilities.  Whenever I ask them, they invariably respond with a version of, “I love what I do.  It isn’t work.”

I brushed off my resume recently as I was going through my annual review at the university where I teach, and I was embarrassed that at a jam-packed two pages, it still didn’t contain all of the jobs I’ve held since I started working at age 15.

Of all the jobs not always listed on my resume, I think my first one was the closest to where and who the 2010 me ended up.  In 1991, I participated in one of World Vision’s first 30 Hour Famine events in the United States.  Those 30 hours I spent without food raised money to fight world hunger, and they also led me to several years of representing the 30 Hour Famine as the National Teen Director.

Looking back with the eyes of a seasoned public relations professional, it is pretty unbelievable that a 16-year-old version of me hopped out of a booth at Hard Rock Cafe in Atlanta to take a call from the Associated Press on the pay phone in the bathroom hall – just seconds after breaking my fast over cheeseburgers with Miss Ethiopia.  I didn’t even know what I was looking at when they sent me a three-inch stack of clips of me saying the same thing in articles published all over the country.

I loved that job, and it wasn’t just my name in print; I loved making $5 an hour making it up as I went along.  I was checking off names of churches and schools in the phone book with a green felt tip marker as I recruited groups of young people to give up eating for a little over a day. Each of the five annual 30 Hour Famines I participated in was larger than the last, leading up to a regional midnight rally my senior year that drew nearly a thousand teenagers who hadn’t eaten since morning.

Work wasn’t work because my responsibilities were natural expressions of the best of my abilities.  I love getting people together for a cause. I love talking people into things they never believed they could do. I love sharing my passion through writing. I love teaching people about issues that really matter.

A couple of weeks ago I found a copy of a letter I wrote to Paula Abdul – round one of her fame – asking for her support in 1992.  I realized, nearly 20 years later, that I am still energized by my work for all the same reasons. I may not have been at the same job all this time, but wherever I’ve been happiest, one thing has held true: Work isn’t work when you’re having a great time.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. David F. permalink
    April 27, 2010 11:08 pm

    As a participant of the first famine event you helped organize, I must say you were truly in your element. Standing in the parking lot outside the church gym surrounded by the local camera crew, you spoke with conviction and sincerity. You were destined for great things.

    Would that I could find that passion and drive. Thank you for sharing this bit of our collective memory.

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