BY EMILY JOHNSON
What do you do for work? Sound familiar? How many times do we ask others this question? How many times have we been asked?
When I worked as an organ donation coordinator, I used to joke that someday I was going to respond that I was a “button pusher.” It was challenging to describe all the facets of the role. One task I was responsible for was allocating precious life-saving organs. This is done electronically with one simple push of a button. Hence the idea to say I was a “button pusher.”
I was deeply affected by my work as an organ donation coordinator. To sit with a family, complete strangers to me, whose loved one had died or had suffered a devastating injury, to hold space for them, to listen to them, to guide them through the organ and tissue donation process — there are no words powerful enough to describe these experiences.
And then, of course, there were the patients themselves. The sole reason why I walked thru those ICU doors. There were the all-too-common drug overdoses, the suicides, the traumas, the occasional homicide, the frequent strokes, and the cardiac arrests. I had the privilege to be present at the end of all of their lives. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to know them as a person.
To only know someone in death is a lesson of values. As I spent time with the bereaved friends and families, I got to learn about the person who lived inside the body who lay before me. And let me tell you, the donor’s occupation only came up because it is required documentation.
I spent the better half of family meetings talking about the donor’s passions, interests, hobbies, personality, successes, and failures. I learned about how they spent their time on this earth. I learned about their values.
My hope for us all is twofold — next time you are getting to know someone, ask them what they do in their spare time. Ask them to tell you about their interests. Chances are, you will generate more conversation and connection this way.
There is nothing right or wrong about asking someone what they do for work. But in the end what will matter the most? The job title or the memory of who you were as a whole being?
My other hope is that this post will touch and inspire us all to examine our values. Take some time to think and then write your thoughts down. Share what you’ve written with your loved ones. Ask them to do the same. Are their values in line with yours? Personally, I value time with family and friends. I value health & wellness. I value movement and music. I value time to read and write. I value nature. I value helping others.
These values have translated into replacing cable television with library books, walking every morning in the woods with my dog, doing more yoga and having more dance parties, spending a lot more time with friends, babysitting my friend’s children, making a habit out of going to bed early and rising early, drinking less alcohol and more herbal tea.
So be bold my friends. The time is now. This is your one life (and only life in case you didn’t get the memo). What do you value? Do the things you spend a lot of time doing bring value to your life?
Sip a little more: