As I sit in my cube today, the man next to me is retiring and today is his last day. I have not been at this company long and I do not know this man. I do not know if he was forced to retire or if he is doing this willingly. As an observer, I cannot help internalizing what he is going through and how I feel. Pain, loss (identity/friends), freedom, maybe money worries. A complete dichotomy of emotions.
Personally, I hate the word retirement. It signals an end. It means that you are no longer necessary to that business, to the people you touch every day. But neither of these are true. In my life I have replaced the whole idea of retirement with spreading and keeping Faith.
What does Faith mean in this context? This is seemingly incongruous. It does not even make sense. We could use the word Faith in almost any context but as an offset to the word retirement it has a new luster.
All week I have watched this man pack, get visitors, and “work.” Literally it is a living wake. Today I have watched his coworkers come up to him with hugs and words of comfort. Some feel awkward as I overhear false words of “keep in touch.” Other popular expressions include:
“You are free!”
“Getting out of here before the big changes.”
Slowly as the week has progressed to his last days I have watched him empty a cube that has been his life and is filled with decades of “things.” I say slowly because I don’t think he wants to get out quickly. His walls are covered with family photos, including wife, kids, grandkids. He has an assortment of personal items, some work-related, and some personalized. He also sits in a cube that has what I will call window shelves. These shelves contain a plethora of trinkets that represent him. These were the last to go. This process is painful.
Do these items define him?
No. His Faith defines him. While he has been with the company approximately three decades, items did not define him; they gave him solace and visually defined who he was to all that passed by his cube. But it is what he did at the company on an interpersonal basis that defines him. That never gets retired, it lives on in the lives he touched while he was here. It becomes the food that nourishes Faith.
If we consciously know that then there is no retirement, we can make our lives (personal and work) about Faith.
A strong Faith gets you up every morning.
Faith is present when you are going into the office even though you don’t want to deal with your manager or coworkers that day or week.
Faith is what you give others when you smile at them as you pass by in the hallway instead of averting your eyes.
Faith is what you spread when you talk about your weekend and show others what they can do with their lives.
Faith is listening to a coworker complain about another and providing constructive feedback to mend wounds.
Faith is sitting in your chair every day, smiling, and sharing something positive at least once a day.
Faith is providing a pat on the back of someone who you may not like or get along with but can appreciate.
Faith is following your path even as other don’t see it and it appears rocky.
Faith is never-ending. It crosses countless divides. It ebbs and flows, but no matter whom I have interacted with and what religion they practiced, even if there was no religion at all: they all to a person used the word Faith.
Faith may be aliased as perseverance, determination, steadfastness or grit. When these are all stripped down, Faith is what shines through.
I keep this in mind as I watch this man on his last day. I rededicate myself in my environment knowing it is Faith I want to spread. You cannot retire Faith.
In the distant echo of my mind a soft but extremely powerful voice says to me “Your Faith has saved you.”
Copyright 2017 Peter Serzo