I turned on my TV this morning, hoping that some random Olympic event was being broadcast. (The luge is my favorite winter sport, followed by ski jump, possibly because both of them are outright terrifying but at least it's not me doing it.) There were no Olympics; instead, I had accidentally tuned into Journey with Dylan Dreyer.
I came in just in time to see these really beautiful trees that had what looked like puffs of steam coming off them. Ms. Dreyer was in the midst of explaining that these trees had been growing and staying alive for perhaps millennia, unregarded by humans as far as we know, and that there is no record of humans ever witnessing the spore release before (that was what the steam puffs were). Indeed, she added, "We don't even know if this happens every year."
Imagine pouring your whole being into something year after year and decade after decade with no one ever noticing.
I'm sure that's not quite true for the trees. They probably have a thriving relationship with the local wildlife and other flora surrounding them. I'm sure this ecosystem has being rolling right along for its millennia without missing the presence of humans at all, because its rewards for being come from elsewhere.
In our last study, we talked about the Colossians 3 verse that says to work as if you're working for the Lord, not a fellow human. But these faithful trees reminded me more of Matthew 6, where Jesus tells his followers three times in the first half of the chapter that God rewards what goes unseen. Whether giving, praying, or fasting, Jesus says, keep it to yourself, because "your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:4, 6, & 18, ESV)
This is a hard thing to put into practice at work, where all hopes for advancement, pay raises, and other traditional markers of doing well at one's job rest upon being seen. I have no solution for that, and I believe that it's a struggle that we who seek to live out our faith in the workplace will continue to wrestle with.
But that doesn't mean we must go away defeated, either, because there's this: I'm a regular listener of a podcast called The West Wing Weekly, which is about the early-2000s TV show, The West Wing. In a recent episode, one of the hosts commented on one of the best features of this fictional workplace being that they all went behind each other's backs to be kind to one another. They did it face to face, too, but it's all the more striking how these characters were as committed to one another as to the job, to the point that they rarely let the job get in the way of doing good by stealth for their co-workers. Even the cranky one.
This post has not ended up where I meant it to go when I started, so perhaps this is the message I needed today. Can we make our work environments more pleasant, appreciative, kind places without making a big deal out of it? Is there a kindness that a co-worker needs that you are uniquely suited to meet quietly? Let's head out next week and see how much good we can do when we know our rewards come from somewhere else.
Image source: Vince Pataky on freeimages.com. Y'all, the suggested pics that came up when I searched "secret" and "do good" were absolutely ridiculous and involved rather a lot of tree frogs. Please don't put a tree frog in your co-worker's desk in an attempt to be kind. That is a bad choice.