Who are you? Especially when we’re not looking? And especially when you can get away with it?
That is a question I’m learning to ask myself daily – be it at home – outside when I interact with people – how I handle my business… the list is endless.
I recently had a meeting with a young, dynamic and highly influential business woman who’s father died due to negligence during a public sector strike.
She was black. I had to mention this because often I’ve found that debates get sorely heated and instead of arguing the issues at hand they become racial battles. I don’t intend for that here.
Having had first hand experience of what life savers going on strike meant for her family she felt the honour of the profession had been lost. Simply put she felt there were some in the medical field who no longer became health care givers because in their hearts they wanted to help people- they did it for the pay. And I say some.
But it’s not just some individuals in the medical profession – it’s some individuals in just about every profession you can think of.
This conversation has been nagging at me for weeks now. Often when I come across stories like these I am compelled to look at my own life and question my standing on the matter: What is honour? Do I practice it?
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a really long time now – but for some reason the words would not come – perhaps because like one writer said “It’s impossible to lie when you write.” So maybe for me the trepidation with which I approach this subject was a signal for me to check my own self.
Being a mom has changed me. It’s made me scrutinise the world with the burden of raising my child in it.
Before my son I was compelled to accept most things as moving with the times. But now I see the life I hope for my son and question why I can’t want a better world not just for my son but for me too?
Why should honour be a thing of the past?
I would love to do business with people who keep their word.
I’d love to buy from stores that deliver on the promises they make.
I’d love to work with people who are doing the work because they want to – because they love it – because they know that no matter what their doing or how insignificant it may seem – it matters.
I remember a lady named Sophie at a company I once worked. She was old and so radiant it was impossible to be bawled over by her sheer beauty.
She always had a smile on her face.
During her last days at the company, though, she opened up to me about how sad she was to be leaving her job.
“Oh I love it here!” She told me. “I love my job and I love the people. And every single day I pray and I ask God to help me love my job. Because I know if I don’t love my job I won’t do it properly.”
Here was a woman who was working a job most of us would consider menial – and yet she was so proud of her work. And she cared about it so much that on a daily basis she laid it before God and asked Him to give her the right attitude toward it. Honourable.
During my waitressing days – I did my best to be good at my job.
If you’ve ever waitered before you know it can be a humbling experience. Sometimes it’s great – but often times you get people who treat you like you have the IQ of dishwashing liquid. And still I chose to be proud of my work.
There was a time being a waitress was my full time job – at the time I didn’t have many other options. So I totally get doing a job not because you love it but because you either do it or starve. And yet even in that… oh well I think I’ve made my point.
So anyway there came a time I waitressed with my friend Faith.
The two of us would do work none of the other waiters wanted to do; but we knew that doing those seemingly horrible chores made a difference to our customers. And we took such pride in that.
We were never thanked for it: The other waiters benefited but never thanked us – the customers never saw it – the managers didn’t really seem to care – but we did those chores not because it was part of our job description – but because it felt good to do something that was right even if we got no reward for it.
To this day, almost ten years later, Faith is one of the few people I know I would trust whole heartedly to do business with – because I saw her heart when we worked together. I saw how she did chores no one wanted to – or thanked her for. But she did them because she knew those little things made a difference. Honourable.
Each one of us yearns to be honoured.
We want companies we work with to treat us as though we matter. That’s why we get angry at being under appreciated.
We want businesses we purchase from to keep their promises to us. That’s why hellopeter is so successful.
We want individuals to go that extra mile even when it’s not pleasant because it will make our day. That’s why we keep going back to places that provide us with wonderful service.
If that’s what we hope for ourselves – I reckon it makes sense that we choose to keep our word to others too. I reckon it makes sense to deliver on promises we make.
It’s easy to get out of not doing what we should. But is that really the reputation we want to build?
Sometimes putting our hearts into what we do, even when the conditions compel us to harden ourselves, is something to be admired.
What we do might not be as grand as saving lives – but each one of us does something remarkable. It might be something as overlooked as Sophie’s job – but let me tell you when you get to work and your office is in a mess – you’ll miss Sophie. And when you do have someone who does the work but grunts and complains through it – isn’t that just miserable?
But having Sophie – what a blessing. She gives when no one’s looking. She takes extra care in all she does because her heart is filled with goodness and gratitude that can only come from an honourable heart.
I believe Sophie will look back on her years of service and remember the people who grew to love her because of her awesome character. She will remember those who were smart enough to notice her work and thank her – and all her life she will know that her work mattered. Even if no one ever told her how amazing she was – she knew it. And she was proud of it. And she knows she did make a difference.
Honour. It’s a BIG word packed with much demand.
As I write this I know I have work to do in this part of my life.
Honour calls. Will you answer?
You’re welcome to leave a comment or email Hannah directly at firstname.lastname@example.org