What Do You Do: Finding Value in the Question No One Likes

Several years ago, my friend Verray returned home from a mission trip to the Ukraine full of stories about the former Soviet culture. She talked about the architecture in Kiev. She showed us photos of the babushkas selling vegetables and handmade goods. She described the church services and gatherings with other Christians.

One detail from her trip left an especially big impression on her. Several members of her group attended a Bible study at the home of one of the Ukrainian women they had met. As they began their evening, each participant was asked to share a little about herself. As my friend explains it, after two or three of the Americans spoke, their host stopped them.

“We don’t want to know what you do for a living, what college you went to, or if you have a house,” the leader said. “We want to know you, who you are, your heart, how God has worked in your life.”

As someone who regularly asked people “What do you do?” in order to talk with them about their work, I was confused.

“Do they have jobs?” I asked. The fall of the Iron Curtain was still fresh in my memory. Despite economic growth, was Ukrainian unemployment high? What was I missing? “I mean, they do work, don’t they?”

“Yes, but it doesn’t define them,” Verray explained. “Not like here.”

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.