Labor of Love

Written by: Laurie Jackson, President / CEO, National Safe Place Network

For nearly thirty years I have been working with and advocating for youth who have runaway, are homeless, or otherwise in crisis. I find it gratifying to remember the successes of the work: the families who were reunited after a tough crisis created a separation. Even when a separation is only for a brief time it may create angst for the family. I also recall the times that sadness overwhelmed my head and heart when, despite all efforts, a divide remained following service. The trials and tribulations of youth work provides an emotional sense that is a high crest on the wave and the opposite – the crash of the same wave and the ripple effect it leaves in its wake.

I would take a guess this is true regardless of the work. Whether cooking, teaching, policing, or working in a fitness center, there are good days and not so good days. The piece that holds true for me, and I hope for others, is the passion for the work. As Labor Day approaches it is a time to consider the work, the labor we do. I often hear the statement, “If I won the lottery I would / would not work.” It is an interesting quandary. I have great passion for my work; the youth and families impacted by my work either directly or indirectly. I would continue working in some form if money were no object. Those of us who work in the youth and family services field, whether as youth workers, executives, maintenance workers – we all have an impact on the those we serve. Even if we don’t realize it, the smallest gesture may make the largest impression. I believe this is true regardless of your work: a police officer providing assistance; a chef preparing a fabulous meal for a special event; the singer who belts out a tune that resonates and connects with someone. I could go on and on. It is the work, the labor, the service that can change someone’s day, and perhaps their life.

As this Labor Day is upon us, please take time to celebrate the success and the good times. Reflect upon and learn from the times causing sadness or strife. These are all the times that make us who we are. Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in service of others.” I find this to be my labor of love – serving others.

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