November was a month of change for my family. My daughter, son-in-law, and their three children moved from Austin to the northeast. It was sad to say goodbye, but their future is bright. My son-in-law defended his dissertation and completed his Ph.D. in engineering after more than five years of intensive study. During this time, my daughter stayed home and raised two young children, in addition to having a third child. Raising three young children is more than a full-time job but doing it while your husband is a graduate student makes it even more demanding. Only energetic youths can absorb the trials of parenthood combined with graduate studies.
My son-in-law worked for seven years after obtaining his undergraduate degree because he was undecided on his vocation. He is multi-talented and was fortunate to have many vocational possibilities. He did not want to quickly venture into a field of study only to discard it later. Instead, he worked full-time at a liberal arts college while researching his options. He next interviewed at various universities and was offered graduate fellowships. To his surprise, the University of Texas proved to be his best option and he did not need to relocate out-of-state. Instead, his family moved closer to the university and our nearby Austin home.
One of his primary vocational drivers was doing work that benefited society. He was not motivated by financial gain, although he understood that he needed to earn enough money to maintain his family. Dr. Kenman L. Wong, professor of business ethics at Seattle Pacific University, and Dr. Scott B. Rae, professor of philosophy and Christian ethics at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University), authored Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2011). They state that “many people, especially those of the Millennial Generation, place great importance on doing work that benefits the world around them.” (page 32)
When I was getting my undergraduate degree in engineering, my classmates mainly sought high starting salary jobs with potential career advancement. Location was also important as my university was at the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Many students did not relish moving out-of-state. I don’t remember discussing vocations for the common good; hydrocarbon energy was in high demand with little discussion around the associated environmental impact.
“If reduced to nothing more than a means to make money, it does not matter where we work or what products we make or services we offer as long as we collect an adequate paycheck. Yet, researchers in the emerging field of positive organizational scholarship are making connections between meaning, engagement at work and overall life satisfaction. For example, some studies show that employment that can be recrafted into a ‘calling’ (work that is seen as contributing to the greater good) is the most satisfying form of work because it is done for its own sake rather than for the material rewards it may bring.” (pages 31-32)
Employers must also have the vision to look past only profits and serve their community for the common good or they may potentially limit their ability to attract top caliber employees. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, authors of Built to Last, “repeatedly point out that the most successful companies they studied make service to their customers the primary goal, and they expected to be profitable if they accomplish that well. We would suggest that this emphasis on the long-run creation of value for customers and the community is another way of articulating what we call transformational service.” (page 174)
Parents normally grieve when their children grow up and move away. On the flip side, they celebrate their children’s independence and achievements. My daughter and her husband have a bright future and are blessed with wonderful children (grandparents are naturally biased!). Knowing that the next generation strives for the common good gives me hope. Although 2020 has been a difficult year in so many ways, the Christian faith is full of hope, joy, peace and love. Even a move of 1,500 miles can still bind our family together through our unconditional love and working for the common good.