Work, a matter of choice, a matter of passion

There are two important decisions in young people’s lives: finding the right partner and deciding the right vocation or trade. At present, the latter is a big struggle. In former times you often followed in your father’s footsteps and trade. If your father was a farmer, you might inherit the family farm and end up growing crops and breeding cattle. A daughter of medical people tended to follow in similar footsteps.

When I was living on a mine, we had a different situation. The parents, mostly engaged in manual work in a copper mine, wanted their sons to be promoted to a job in administration (office work). Being a manual worker, the father wanted his sons to be office clerks; he did not want them to get their hands dirty with shovels and pick axes in dangerous underground jobs. Speaking once to a mother, she was appalled when her boy was offered apprenticeship to qualify as a miner.

A miner with a blackened face was not her idea of an educated man. She wanted her son to sit in an office, in a white shirt and tie. I told her that her son would get a substantial wage as a qualified miner (this was before 1980!), several times as much as he could get as a mabharani (clerk), or pushing a wheelbarrow. With that pay a young man would have little trouble paying for his lobola. Nowadays, one cannot be choosy; accept anything to put sadza (staple diet) on the table.

Is a white-collar job necessarily paying better than manual work? What is offered on the labour market? What qualifications are needed? A householder may run around looking for a plumber, but the children of his more educated neighbour have degrees in political science. Electricians may be hard to come by, but there are plenty of young women with qualifications in financial administration.

Are you choosing to train for a job for which there is a market? Are you seeking work or employment? Maybe you could make a living by self-employment rather than looking for employers. The young ones have no work, but I see plenty of work to be done when I go around town. Sewerage is not working. Old people are not cared for, but who cares? It is not only during a pandemic that children have no teachers and remain uneducated. They are neglected, live in cardboard boxes and sniff glue. The chronically ill have no medical care. Accident victims have no one in outpatients to give them first aid.

Parents have spent lots of money on school fees to teach their children reading and writing, but can they read, can they write, except with their smartphones? Who gives them an interest in books, how will they gain useful knowledge and become self-supporting handymen? Elder brothers and sisters could learn a lot by teaching the young ones in the family. Would that not help build a self-help culture? In such a culture nobody has a right to be idle with the excuse: “This we did not learn in school”. We need a new self-help culture and a technical civilization based on family and community co-operation.

Priests and pastors know that their many calls for bigger collections are not popular. We all live in the same bankrupt economy. A robust self-help mentality is needed. The church roof is leaking, the pastor himself must be the first to climb up on the roof and sort out the sound from the rotten roof tiles. If the entire congregation had this self-help spirit, collaborating in mending the roof would do them a lot of good. They would become a self-supporting, proud assembly of do-it-yourself Christians, full of self-confidence, “because we can do it”. Are we looking for work or for employment? Work is there, plenty of it. Our roads are strips of potholes, no longer suitable for transport. The only problem would be: who pays the workers? Employment is more critical. Are we looking for an occupation that keeps us busy and gives us an income? Do we look out for an income or for a chance to use our talents, our inventiveness or creativity? I know a young man who is an artist. He carves statues and paints pictures. He is creative. He is never bored. Just making money is not good enough for him; for him work is participation in the creation of the world.

The question is often: what are you inclined to do? Work with material objects primarily or with people? My eldest sister became an industrial fashion designer. After some years of very strenuous work, she changed to adult education, but even in her old age she was still able to sew her ow n clothes. She was happiest to pass on her skills as a creator of beautiful clothes. She also was an artist and her artwork depicted most of the old city where we lived. There should be an education enabling children to make the right choice.

My best friend was an enthusiastic teacher. He could not have done anything but teach, he had a passion for children and their progress. Teaching for him was a vocation, a calling. A few years later, I started training as a priest and pastor. Then I began to understand what a calling was. I was only a teenager when I first started writing and editing. I became a writer with a love for communication which went well with being a teacher and a preacher.

It may take some time to discover our real passion and abilities. Happy the man or woman who is allowed to follow his/ her real inclination and talent, becoming truly creative. Young people should ask themselves more than what is the pay like? Will I like it and enjoy it? Will I make this earth a more beautiful place? We all seek happiness. Maybe using our hands and brains for quite unique and enjoyable work that also others can enjoy is a better way of achieving this than most. The Creator of the “Earth, our common home” is still looking for co-workers. – (Fr Oskar Wermter SJ, Harare, Zimbabwe)

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Father Javier Alvarado Ayala