Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a volunteer appreciation dinner event for Habitat for Humanity in my community. During our dinner, we were treated to some dinner entertainment provided by a volunteer, a staff member and a Habitat homeowner. The music was fun and it was great to see these people get up and share their gifts with us.
The staff member who performed is a Volunteer Coordinator at Habitat who’s recently joined the organization full time after serving the organization as an intern for a year. It was clear when grabbed his guitar and took the stage that he was very talented. He played accompaniment for the volunteer who sang and then followed that with his own song. The song he sang was one he had written to pay tribute to a specific volunteer who he felt had gone above and beyond to help Habitat in the past year. It was a clever song that was both touching and funny. I was moved by it.
Part of the reason I was moved by the song stretched beyond the music. It occurred to me that this young man had found a way to bring his musical talent to his work at Habitat. What I found out later is that he frequently uses his musical gifts in his work with volunteers for the organization. He loves his job. And, I think that it is awesome. He’s found a way to bring together two things in his life that give him joy, his job and his music, and use them together to do his job in a way that is highly effective, unique, and memorable.
And what’s perhaps more important, his employer is not only allowing it, but encouraging it. As I think back over my career, I’m sure I have worked with a lot of people who were musicians or at least possessed some great musical gifts, but I don’t know that I remember any of them bringing that gift in to share through their “day jobs.” Perhaps music isn’t something that fits in every job, but gifts and talents span far beyond music.
The question is this: are people choosing to (or ever allowed to) bring those gifts to work? Human beings aren’t naturally compartmentalized, we have to learn how to do that for school, work, and society. We want to be whole. And yet, it’s so rare to hear stories about workplaces that are truly embracing the whole person and expecting them to bring their whole selves to work.
So, in honor of the singing and guitar playing volunteer coordinator, I’d encourage you reflect on these three questions:
- How can I bring all of my gifts to my work?
- How can I encourage those around me to bring their gifts to their work?
- How can we create workplaces that welcome and embrace the whole person and all of their wonderful complexity?