It’s Friday night, and I am in Louisville, Kentucky. After our wedding anniversary vacation, my wife Dulce has returned to San Antonio, and I went a separate direction to teach a weekend course.

I’m on the elevator of a Marriott property, and we stop on the 8th floor. A janitorial service worker jumps in, and he shares a pleasant smile.

It’s a kind smile, one that communicates so much even without the use of any words.

In Spanish, I ask, “Still working? It seems like work never goes away, right?”

He replies, “Yes … It’s good to have work.”

The elevator comes to a stop on the 7th floor, and he gives me a friendly goodbye as he continues with his evening duties.

The Deal with Work

If you ask most people who know me, they will likely share with you that I am a workaholic.

As with any “aholic,” it’s probably not a compliment.

When I began my career in industry, way back when I took my first job at Shell Oil Company in Houston, I had a totally different perception of what it meant to be employed.

Like any other gung-ho college graduate, I wanted to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. I wanted to arrive early to work and stay as late as possible to impress my boss.

I wanted the material things work provides. I wanted to afford the beautiful house in the upscale neighborhood, the flashy car that would garner attention, the luxury vacations to exotic places around the world, and so on.

In other words, the act of working served as a means to an end. It was something I needed to do so I could get what I wanted, at least materially.

Meaning of Work Today

The friendly janitor on the Marriott elevator reminded me of something important I had forgotten.

That is, the work I do today is no longer something I have to do. I have the option to walk away from it.

As I reflect on the jobs I’ve had in the past, I spent years spinning my wheels doing work I did not like.

Now, in some capacity or another, my work involves education. I feel at home when working with my university and corporate students.

This is my calling.

The other key point I wanted to share with you is that I began enjoying my work much more once I came to the realization that I needed to be a humble servant.

For so many years, and as I have noted here, so much of my life was concerned with taking from others, such as collecting a paycheck and caring little about what I could give back.

As I have increased my service to others, such as through ministries, I realize that having a fulfilled life requires a balanced approach.

One day, and I pray soon, the Lord will allow me to express a gentle smile that comes from a person who is at ease with himself and is no longer trying to impress others.