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A few weeks ago, for the first time in several years, I took a new job.images

No, I didn’t quit teaching. It’s just on the side. Moonlighting, if you will.

I became an Uber driver, and it’s been a pretty fun way to spend a night or two each week and make a little extra money.

I have to say that driving has put me in greater touch with my community and exposed me to a wider variety of people than anything else I can remember doing. It’s been fascinating, fulfilling, and sometimes a little annoying as strangers pile into my car for a few minutes while I drive them around town. You meet a whole lot more people driving for Uber than pastoring a church or teaching at a school, that’s for sure.

And so, after a few weeks of cruising with strangers, here is what I think I’ve learned from my fresh exposure to the theater of humanity.

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What did you want to be when you grew up?sandlot-01

When I was in school, I was fascinated with outer space. I thought I wanted to be a scientist and work for NASA. Over time, I discovered more about my natural gifts and inclinations, not to mention limitations and so I quietly gave up this ambition without any real fanfare.

I was unusual in my boyhood ambitions. Many boys do not dream about going to work for NASA. On the contrary, it is no secret that many boys, a majority, harbor hopes and dreams of being professional athletes. I know this because I am a teacher and talk regularly to children about what they want to be when they grow up.

A teacher.

A veterinarian.

A doctor.

Those youthful ambitions are almost exclusively held by the female students. The boys on the other hand, by a wide margin, tell me that they want to play for a living. They want to be soccer players, baseball or basketball players. They want to be stars. They don’t dream of being writers or artists (though there are plenty of males in both of those fields.) The one widely acceptable career goal for boys is to throw, catch and hit a ball for a living.

I did not always think this was a big deal. Who cares, they are just silly childhood dreams, right? But the more I think about it, especially now that I’m going to be a dad, I have to wonder why so many boys dream of lives of athletic conquest, if we as adults are encouraging this fantasy, and if it is even a healthy dream to begin with.

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When I was in seminary, I was surrounded by guys who thought that they were embarking on the “hightest calling.”

That is, they were training to be pastors. And all of the seminary culture reinforced this belief – that being a pastor, i.e. leading a church was the absolute most important thing we could do. Of all the “good” choices of occupation, this was the best.

Now that I’m a teacher, I find myself commonly among people who consider their profession the “highest calling.”

“Strange,” I thought. Didn’t these people get the memo that pastors had the highest calling? But there they are, in all of their audacity, believing that educating the next generation is the most important thing.

And then there are some parents, perhaps who I find myself in the company of, or whose blogs and Facebook posts I read. And wouldn’t you know it, a good deal of parents think that parenting is the highest calling. How could there be anything more important than raising the next generation? And like teachers and pastors, there are plenty of other parents who reinforce that belief.

The thing that I’ve learned is that the language of “highest calling,” contrary to building everyone up, is actually, positively poisonous to everyone, no matter what vocation or life stage we find ourselves in.

This is why.

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“Are you quitting your day job?”Old_typewriter_macro_shot_by_Jantiff_Stocks3

Since Life After Art was published, I’ve done quite a few radio interviews, which is a lot of fun.  After a few, you start to learn what questions to expect.  But recently, I got a question that I really wasn’t prepared for:

“Are you quitting your job now that you’ve published a book?”

I get why the radio host asked that question.  Isn’t that what we all want to do, especially as bloggers?  We dream of some romantic future where we can turn our hobby into our full-time profession.  I admit, I dream too.  Not many people get to do it, but just enough do that the rest of us might keep vigil for our dream of someday.

But my answer was, “No.”  Unequivocally, no.  Not just because of the realities that writing has not made me enough money to turn it into a career, but because it is not my ambition to do so.  I have set aside that ambition, despite all of it’s appeal.

Writing full-time is certainly a noble ambition.  But it isn’t mine.  And you are a blogger who dreams of becoming a “real” writer, maybe you should consider these reasons I’m not trying to become a full-time author.

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What are you creating with your life?thumb

Music?

Images?

Stories?

Many of you probably consider yourselves creative in some way.  But there are many many people who do not.  I cannot tell you how many adults I talk to who do not have some creative outlet in their lives.  They are on the outside looking in.  Some people are so far outside the creative world, they don’t even know it.  Most of them think they do not have the right to be creative because they don’t have enough talent, however they define it.

Behind everything I do – every word I write, every image I make, every lesson I teach, is one motivation.

To create a generation of creative people.

Last week, I was really honored to speak at STORY conference in Chicago about this very topic.  For all of you who were not there, I want to tell you three things you can do to help do what I do, create a generation of people who are empowered to be creative.

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I love this guy, Tim.TimsPlace

Last week, this story came to my attention.  It only has a million or so views, so there’s a good chance you haven’t seen it.  It’s well worth your three minutes.  I’ve linked up to it at the end of this post.

The long and short of it is that when Tim was a teenager, he dreamed of owning his own restaurant.  And now he does.  His restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and…hugs.  Hugs are free, but you have to order one, and they are all delivered by Tim himself.

Oh, by the way, Tim has Down’s Syndrome.

I love Tim’s story, because it proves so fantastically the truth that I try to convince my students – and myself – of every day, the truth of the value of our work, and finding our calling.

This is what Tim’s story tells me: Continue Reading…