Since moving to Cornwall, my main job has been as a care-worker, supporting a guy with learning difficulties (and various complicating factors). Apart from the need to find work, the reason I chose to do this was 'to see what it did to me' – I wanted to find out how I would come out of it, what I'd learn about myself etc.etc.
Well, five months on, what has it done to me?
An observation: There's something in us, in our society, that measures our worth by looking at what we've achieved or contributed. We meet a new person and ask, "What do you do?" We discuss our hopes and schemes for future conquests, desperate to succeed and look good. Great people do great things.
Most believers know (in their heads at least) that God measures value differently – that His love is unconditional and therefore a complete contrast to what I've just described – but we still live burdened by the need to achieve and look good.
When you are working with someone who cannot earn a living, who cannot care for himself, who cannot self-improve, and who, frankly, can be quite annoying, it messes with the success-oriented bits of you, because, since they cannot achieve value, it undermines your quest. Babies may be entirely dependent too, but they don't threaten us in the same ways, since at least they can contribute cuteness and gradual development.
The guy I work with will probably never be independent, and will probably never become a 'net contributor to society'. And yet, through all the frustrations and what-have-you, it's been slowly creeping up on me that it doesn't matter: it doesn't define him. In God's eyes, he would not be more valuable if he'd just won the Ashes and found a cure for cancer – he is already worth more than any money and is precious beyond words. And he doesn't even have a job – shocking.
I don't think I could have learned this without care work. The love of God is terrifyingly relentless, and so far above our own. I can run around trying to be successful and impressive and whatever, but if that's out of some need to earn acceptance, then it's the most ridiculous waste.
Those unable to compete in the Rat Race or achieve religious advancement show us up for the shallow frauds that we are.