Where Our Hands Find Work

Bethany Ulrich, Episcopal Urban Intern Program

I didn’t mean to disrespect the California Assemblyman. But how was I supposed to know what he looked like? It was one of my first days as an intern at Community Health Councils and I already was not feeling so hot about how useful or meaningful I would be in completing the year-long job before me. Am I smart enough? Am I charismatic enough? Am I strong enough?

I didn’t recognize the California assemblyman when I was in front of a bus of 50 people, prepping them for a public hearing concerning oil drilling in their neighborhoods. I had heard rumors I was to hand the mike over to the political leader for a pep talk, but hadn’t heard confirmation he would be there. Thus I accidentally treated the senator and his assistants hanging around the bus like regular Joe Shmoes and was surprised when one of them took the mike and identified himself as the said assemblyman.

Challenges like these constantly hold my inadequacies before me. With this and other frustrations, I realize that my skills and interests may not completely line-up with those that it takes to do my current job.

But the challenges have me learning and growing in ways I did not expect. Through my internship I’ve been introduced to whole worlds I never knew existed: public health, environmental issues, macro social-work, health disparities. Plus, I get to witness the glow of residents who communicate to elected officials for the first time; I get to eat lunch and take walks with my extremely knowledgeable and experienced co-workers; I get to meet with top LA environmentalists and hear about what proposals they are making to the mayor.

At one time, this may have bothered me: that I wasn’t doing the most fulfilling work right out of college. But I like to think that Samuel’s words to Saul before he became king, might apply to me too: “…do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you” (Samuel 10:7).

Maybe I don’t have to be doing the absolutely most fulfilling thing that is my life-passion-in order to do meaningful, useful, blessed work. Maybe in the slow moments of life, when I mess up and struggle and am not doing what some people may call my “life-passion”–God is still relevant and alive now. I don’t need to impatiently wait for the day where I’ll figure out exactly where my place is in society, but that my place is here and now, and it is good.

Whether my hands are typing another oilfield update or helping out a coworker or stuffing envelopes, dialing up community members, or accidentally ignoring assemblymen-my work is blessed and may be more meaningful and useful than I think.