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Christmas is a catalyst for self-reflection, Bill observed in a pre-Christmas post, and in the spirit of A Christmas Carol Bill asked us to consider,

“Are the things we do productive and meaningful? Do we provide help, relief, joy, enlightenment, or comfort to others?”

“In our society,” Bill warns, “we are not always taught or allowed to contemplate these factors — we’re convinced to think about the bottom line, to look out for number one.” But in the context of Christmas and as part of our everyday reflection we should keep in mind that, “What you do is who you are.”

I agree with Bill. We are a society encouraged to look after number one first. Our media does not feature social workers earning poverty wages devoted to serving the mentally ill and homeless. We’re revered when we decide to give back only after we have achieved great financial success. Though I don’t agree that what we do is who we are if what we do is defined as our profession.

If our profession defines who we are, then Bob Cratchit wouldn’t have been much better than his pre-enlightened manager Ebenezer Scrooge. Cratchit, Scrooge’s clerk, contributed to Scrooge’s financial success or Scrooge would have surely dismissed him.

For most of us, regardless of our economic success, work is not an exercise in free will. We may exercise our will to be kind to colleagues, offering to finish a project when a colleague is absent to care for a sick child. We may exercise our will to show patience, re-explaining an assignment with no indication of frustration. But seldom do we have the power to singularly choose our profession unfettered by circumstance or chose the ethical direction of the organization for which we work.

So when we reflect on our societal productivity and the comfort we bring to others we must examine our everyday choices – how we treat those we interact with every day. It is not our profession that defines who we are but how we act and to what we aspire. After all, Scrooge’s evolution was made possible in part by Cratchit’s example.