There is a socially predictable pattern that takes place when meeting someone for the first time. You know the script:
"Hello. My name is (insert your name). What is your name?"
"Nice to meet you. What do you do for a living?"
"Me? I am a (insert job title here)."
The reason this social script is acceptable is not because it "flows" but because it places the values of the culture front and center - Who you are and what you do are one in the same thing. This may be part of the reason why we quickly forget the names of the people we just met (who they are) but we will remember where they are employed (what they do).
Our culture emphasises what we do, what we contribute, what we produce, what we make over who we are. We would much rather be a "work-a-holic" than be labeled as a "free-rider". Doing nothing is acceptable on vacation, for a day or two, and the vacation better be short.
When we meet people and quickly ask them what they do, we are perpetuating the value of "work" over "being". Ask someone who is unemployed what they do and many times there is a sense of embarrassment. Many stay at home parents also become uncomfortable responding to this question.
Doing work is not a bad thing, it does not however define who we are. We are first and foremost a beloved child of God, created with all the love and joy and hope and dreams of anyone else ever born. We are beautifully complex, we are full of mystery and wonder and each one of us embodies a story that is ever developing. We have a past and a present, we have a future. We are more than what we do.
So, the next time you meet someone, I suggest that we begin to impose another set of questions and by extension another set of values. Perhaps questions like:
How do you spend your time?
What brings you joy?
Do you have any hobbies?
What really interests you?
What is the most beautiful thing you have seen?