Years ago, my husband Dan and I were attending my girlfriend's wedding. We had been seated with four other couples we didn't know for the reception. Dan and I quickly realized that we didn't have much in common with these eight people. They had lots of post-graduate degrees and impressive jobs. We, on the other hand, had just made a major career change into the food industry. Fast food, to be more specific.
We listened while everyone took turns bragging about recent accomplishments. Suddenly, the focus turned to us. "So, what do you do?" one Ph.D. probed at Dan. "I make sandwiches," he responded. Did he have to be so loud, I wondered, as all eight pairs of eyes fell on us. No one spoke for what seemed like a very long time. "Oh, interesting," was all we heard in response.
I knew then with absolute clarity that the business we were launching would not put us on any professional "Who's Who" lists. I'll admit it took me a while to see how owning a sandwich shop could prove to be significant work. But truly, no job taught me the meaning of finding purpose at work more than this one.
For starters, most of our employees were between ages 16 and 25. Many of these young men and women had come from extraordinarily dysfunctional homes. Dan and I quickly realized that we were their first picture of a working (both figuratively and literally) marriage. To the best of our ability, we treated these individuals with respect and dignity. We worked hard to care for their souls.1