So ... what do you do?
I watched a movie recently that reminded me of something I have often wondered about myself. The movie (Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy) was in itself very riveting, but it was the lifestyle of the Italians that really hit the mark for me. The movie made reference to the values of Italians, how in that country it's not what you do for a living that is a defining factor in who you are as an individual (as it often is here in North America). In Italy, you are not judged or thought more or less of based on what you do to support yourself financially. There, people look at who you are as a person ... you values, how you interact with your family and what your interests and passions are. Your job is simply a means to pay the bills, a routine part of what one does on a daily basis, similar to waking up, brushing one’s teeth and taking the dog for a walk. You are not defined by your job. You are defined by your character, your passions, your love for your family, your contribution to society and your integrity … not the number of hours you spend commuting, what your title is or how late you burn the midnight oil. I know for myself, I absolutely cringe every time I have to attend a social situation in which I am unfamiliar with the other guests. The first question upon meeting someone is typically, "So, what do you do?" This question is not asking me who I am as a basis for getting to know me better. It is asking me what I get paid to do, as if my job defines me. They aren't asking about my passion for writing or my views on mental illness or how I spend my free time serving meals to the homeless drug addicts of our city. These are the things that define me and let someone into my inner world as they are the activities that feed my soul and are an inherent part of who I really am. I think the first question people need to start asking others is "So, what do you like to do? What makes your heart sing?" This is an open-ended invitation to communicate about what really matters. What really matters is who someone is on the inside, not what someone necessarily does to earn a living (unless they are fortunate enough to get paid to do what truly speaks to their spirit and true self). Mother Teresa and Lady Diana were not held in such high regard and admiration because of their title or status. They were loved, deeply revered and forever remembered because of who they were … their compassion and their hearts. It was their persona, their selfless giving and gentle, unrequited nature that touched humanity, not their job title. Italians close their businesses for a set amount of time in the middle of every day in order to go home and enjoy a large meal with their families. This is an important part of their culture, their way of life. They see the necessity and enjoyment of connecting with their loved ones as much as possible. They understand the depth of sustenance and strength that connecting with those who care about us (and who we care about) can give to people. The joy and love one receives from spending time doing what really matters in life far outweighs the love and joy one receives from grabbing a quick bite between business meetings or communicating with a child through text messages instead of at the dinner table. I think here in the western world we have it all backwards. We need to look at how our lifestyle choices have been programmed into us. Our do more, be more and have more mentality is what fuels most of us. I prefer to be fueled by keeping in the forefront of my mind, “It’s not what you know, do or have that matters, it’s who you ARE that really matters.”