Have you ever gotten lost in a spreadsheet or presentation and been paralyzed by the thought that your work doesn't really matter? You put in another day of labor just to meet a deadline and feel as if it's pointless?
I know I have.
But I've come to believe that it does matter. We may not see it now, maybe we won't ever with some things. But in one way or another, it comes around to serve us.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked into Starbucks on a sunny, Sunday morning. It was one of the first weekends in a long time where sandals were appropriate attire. I mean, what says "Spring is in full swing!" like white-washed wide-legged denim and espadrilles? Not much, in my opinion.
I had used my nifty app to order a hot latte, but like many others who planned on enjoying the bright, breezy morning with a cup o' joe before they went on their way, I was forced to wait beside the mobile order station. I shared a couple of smiles and hellos with others who were checking the name tags on each cup, then disappointedly situated myself against the back wall.
"Oh, I love your shoes!" one of the ladies-in-Starbucks-waiting exclaimed.
"Thanks! I had to get these out of the archives," I joked. "They're oldies but goodies!"
"Do they, by chance, have a strap around the ankle?" she asked.
I tugged a pant leg upward to reveal the entire shoe. "They do indeed!" I smiled.
"Oh my gosh, I thought so. They're American Eagle?"
"Yeah!" I assumed that she, too, had bought the same shoes long ago.
"Those were my shoes." She sounded sentimental. "I designed them." She said as she shook her head, smiling tenderly.
"What?" I thought I had misheard. I assumed we simply had the same taste in fashion but never expected to meet a shoe designer standing along the wall of my hometown coffee shop.
"Yeah, I used to work in development, and those were my project. I loved them. I still do."
Obviously I did too. And I let her know it. I was then curious to see if she had more creations I would love. "Do you still work in development?" I asked.
"Well, I worked in Chicago for a while, then I was out in LA for a couple of years. But now...I'm taking a break from work...my dad's been ill. It's why I came home."
She started to look for her order again. Maybe to prevent herself from becoming too emotional. Or perhaps she felt that she had said more than she should.
She hadn't. I stepped my summery wedges toward her as she turned to look at me again.
"It's why I came home too," I told her. "I understand completely. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with you."
The faint sign of tears welled in both of our eyes as she moved a little closer to whisper, "Thank you. I don't think you know what it means to me today."
I did know what it meant to her.
Because I had been shown the same kindness by strangers too. Just when I needed it most. And I was happy to be part of the circle that came back around to serve her in her time of need.
As she walked away with her order in hand, I wondered if while she had been at a computer looking at projections and presentations if she ever imagined she'd be standing at a counter ten years later talking to a lover of her designs.
Your work...what you do...what you create...it's all for a reason. It may not seem like much more than a means to project's end right now. But maybe ten years down the road, the thing you've invested time in will bring someone else joy. It will have been a solution to their problem and connect you in ways you never imagined possible.
We need your work because life actually does depend on it. Our lives. The ones we share.
I don't think this girl's project was just about footwear. It was about connection.
Isn't it always?
Who could have imagined that her work would literally step into her life at a time when she needed to be reminded that there's support and love all around us when we take the time to notice each other?
Even if it is because of a cute pair of shoes.