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Ten Things I Love About My Job (Part 1)

May 13th, 2010

This is in response to a facetious comment on Facebook (http://bit.ly/b3Njpv) in which a friend remarked to one of my status updates, “Bruce, I want your job.”  She was going for a master’s degree in non-profit management, and had worked at UCOM as an intern.  She wants a job doing what I do here.

The comment started me thinking, and I decided to ask our staff to write out the ten things they most like and the ten things they least like about their jobs at UCOM. This article starts my list.

1. People.  With 60,000 people using just the food pantry service at United Church Outreach Ministry in Wyoming MI (www.UCOMgr.org), I experience virtually infinite variety.  Giggling wide-eyed children running and skipping, a tiny girl peeking shyly, but curiously from behind her mother’s skirt, a little boy furiously coloring outside the lines in browns and reds mix with a very skinny homeless man who obviously lost his daily battle with addiction today and a gentle white-haired great-grandmother who came to sell fabulous homemade burritos to the staff.  These are just six of the people we served today.  Every one of them is unique, like snowflakes and diamonds.  I am incredibly honored to offer some assistance in keeping UCOM present to everyone in the community when they need a friend.

2. People.  I am part of the best staff I have known in my forty years in the workforce. This is a team that meets weekly because we want to talk with each other.  We do a lot of shop talk—over lunches and breaks together, grabbing a minute here and there between clients and in structured one to one and group conversations; but we also genuinely care for each other personally.  How’s Vanessa’s new baby girl? What did Helen do at the campground? How are things coming with Diana’s mother and with her two adult children?  A stray pit bull showed up at UCOM’s door a couple of weeks ago.  We fed him and Shawn took him home with her while we looked for the owner.  Everyone asked about him daily while we scoured the neighborhood, posted notices and networked to help keep him safe. Everyone takes his or her job seriously, takes responsibility and knows that their “wild” ideas for improving their service to their clients will be given a hearing.  Most of the time these new ways of doing things get incorporated into our process and later, when we evaluate, both the agency and our clients have profited from a team that thinks for ourselves and listens to each other.

3. People. UCOM had 1,000 volunteers last year who did vital work to keep the organization functioning for the good of everyone in the community.  These passionately concerned people are middle-schoolers, young adults, families and retired people.  From little Noah that helps mom remember that they have to get to work because this is his “job” to our 80 something volunteers who put in hours every week helping their neighbors to mission groups from congregations and schools around the county and around the US who help us a day or a week at a time every volunteer is of great value in the important contribution UCOM makes to the community.  More than half of our volunteers are also clients, giving back to others, grateful for the opportunity to help.  We have about 40 volunteers who sometimes come to us reluctantly, referred by the courts for community service.  Nearly all of them come quickly to appreciate the importance of the work they are doing, and respond well to the respect with which they are treated in this place.  One of them sticks in my mind.  “I didn’t want to be here,” he told me at the end of his first day, “but it feels so good to be treated like a real person.  I like helping people.”  When his community service was done, he volunteered to come back on a regular weekly basis to continue the work he reluctantly began.  Many community service volunteers continue to work with us long after their mandatory time is finished.

There’s more to like about my job as Executive Director of United Church Outreach Ministry in Wyoming MI.  Stay tuned.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Are these things that would help you to like your job?  What do you love about what you do?

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