By Helen Achong
I worked at one organisation for 29 years, beginning at the age of 18 with no prior working experience. It was there that I learned a great deal of life’s lessons.
I am a cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools, grew up going to our Catholic Church, knew how to recite Catholic prayers, but I did not understand the concept of being in a relationship with Jesus. That came later.
I began my journey in the workplace, fresh and green, quiet and reserved, and tried to learn and work the best I could manage. I took with me the same advice that my Mom gave when I began secondary school, which was to avoid gossip for it is wrong and the easiest way to make enemies.
I had years of practice minding my own business and not ill-speaking others. It was also easy for me to be friendly, kind and respectful to everyone, because I grew up in a home where there was love, peace, respect and joy.
I was happy to find that the workplace had genuinely nice people who were helpful, caring, and willing to teach and guide me in this new world I had entered. As the years went by, I grew in knowledge, skills and experience. I think that one of the most important skills needed in the workplace and everywhere is how to get along with people, and how to successfully work together despite our many differences in thinking, feeling, operating, and processing life.
It is easy once you have the mental intelligence, to learn how to follow procedures and get good results, but working and relating harmoniously with a variety of personalities every day in the workplace requires emotional intelligence.
Spiritual intelligence elevates the development of emotional and mental intelligence, through the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. I did not know this until much later.
As my jobs changed there was increased responsibility, and more challenges with duties and people. For years in one area, I was working for several managers who often all required my time and attention at the same time.
I had to learn to multitask and juggle the workflow from people who were constantly dealing with deadlines.
The words ‘urgent’ and ‘priority’ were commonplace. I had to work fast, efficiently, accurately, all with a smile on my face and peace in my heart. This was where I grew in patience, courage, and longsuffering.
I continued to operate with the same values as when I first began my life in the workplace. Because I avoided gossip like the plague, I was usually the last one to find out about any drama taking place.
Strangely, despite my habit of not being talkative, people often came to take a sit by my desk when they were feeling down, had a problem, needed advice, wanted to confide in me, or ask for help with something.
I remember someone asking me if I had a people magnet hidden under my desk. Sometimes these visitors disturbed my concentration and workflow, but I did not let them know. This was one of the ways I grew in charity and mercy.
The last area that I worked within the organisation was in Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. I had to learn new skills, become more creative, work with all areas of the organisation, as well as with the public and media.
During my formative years in this unit, the organisation itself underwent many changes and challenges, and it seemed as though there was a new plan or project every Monday morning.
Over time, I was given more responsibilities, and eventually I was operating as a one-person department. I often felt overwhelmed, ill-equipped, and inexperienced to cope with some of what came my way.
I was also dealing with personal problems like everyone else, and sometimes health issues. Because of the demanding nature of the job and the organisation, it felt as though I was living at work.
Somewhere along the way, I had begun reading God’s Word and many other beautiful Christian inspirational books. I could not get enough of this much-needed nourishment. In my desk drawer was a very used, highlighted, and underlined edition of the New Testament. God’s Word was becoming my cherished lifeline, and a treasure in my heart.
As time went by, as responsibilities increased and the atmosphere in the workplace became more intense and demanding, the feeling of drowning intensified.
One day I met a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal who prayed with and for me, and gave me a little card with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. She told me to pray it every day, which I did. That was the beginning of my real relationship with Jesus, and a whole new way of learning to live inside and outside of the workplace.
This cradle Catholic finally realised that everything begins and ends with prayer. The Holy Spirit guided me through each day. My Helper was in charge.
I found myself doing work I did not know how to do, accomplishing detailed, complex projects I had no clue how to begin, and dealing with situations as though I was a pro, when I knew I was not!
I learned to pray before every task, meeting, and project. I prayed about everything and everyone. No matter what or who I had to deal with on the job, I went first to God.
There was a time when I really needed a big change, and the most logical, obvious thing to do was approach management with a request, but instead I spoke ONLY to God.
Not long afterwards, I unexpectedly received exactly what I needed. God had answered my prayer!
This was not the first or last time that God took over in a big way on my behalf when I spoke only to Him about something. My faith, hope and love just kept growing.
All through my years at the workplace, there were often challenges and difficulties with work, people, and situations. There were countless occasions when I had to pray for the grace to forgive, to keep doing my best in the worst of times, to have courage and patience, to keep going when I wanted to give up, to love when it seemed impossible, to persevere until the end.
All of this was only possible through the grace of God. I left the corporate workplace years ago, and to this day I am still using skills and lessons learnt during those 29 years.
It is true that life is a school, and nothing we learn, or experience goes to waste.
– learn to live one day at a time
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