Last week I received an email from someone with the job title of “Happiness Engineer.” It made me smile. The email was from WordPress, the Internet service I use for hosting this blog. Earlier in the week I had contacted WordPress through their website to let them know that I had been charged twice on my credit card on the same day for a one-year renewal of their hosting and software service. Someone at WordPress with the title of “Happiness Engineer” checked out my concern, apologized for the error, and assured me my account would be credited. The “Happiness Engineer” made me happy.
In another company, the person who resolves minor customer concerns like mine would probably be called a “Customer Service Representative.” I guess that’s an appropriate job title, although if I were the person doing the job, I think I’d prefer the title of “Happiness Engineer.” I think this title would help me keep focused on trying to create happiness as part of the solution to every problem I had to solve.
“Happiness Engineer.” That got me thinking about some of the job titles I’ve had over my career: English Teacher, Editorial Researcher, Business Systems Analyst, Manager of Financial Systems, Business Consultant, Real Estate Broker, Innkeeper, Organist, and a few others. The one title I really didn’t like was “Functional Analyst.” I guess it was better than “Dysfunctional Analyst,” but that’s what I always thought of when I saw the title “Functional Analyst” after my name.
A week and a half ago I went to the funeral of a 106-year-old former neighbor who had been a missionary to China and Africa. She had many job titles, too – Missionary Nurse, Teacher, Mother to a widower’s five children, Writer, Speaker, Lay Minister, and many more.
At the lunch following the funeral I talked with several old friends, and I met a few new people. When I was introduced to one person, I was shocked to hear her say to me, “the author?” when she heard my name. I guess that’s my favorite new job title. I like being seen as an author.
In this month’s “Monastic Way,” Joan Chittister focuses her readers’ attention on a self-portrait by Mary Cassatt. She begins her pamphlet with these words:
To paint a self-portrait, the artist is required to look into a mirror or study a photograph of themselves as they work. They do what few of us ever sit down and do consciously: they look themselves square in the face and try to draw a picture of what they see there. The difference between what they see there and what another artist might set out to express of them is that the person doing a self-portrait knows what every line and furrow, every cast of eye and hunch of shoulder says about the soul within…
What does a job title have to do with a self-portrait? They both provide glimpses into who we are – as we see ourselves, and as other people see us.
Jesus talked about this, too. In all four Gospels, Jesus is recorded as asking his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples answered by saying that some people said he was John the Baptist. Others said he must be Elijah, or one of the other prophets. And then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him by saying, “You are the Messiah.”
I guess we could say Jesus’ job title was “Messiah.” And we could say Peter’s job title was “Apostle” and “Father of the Church,” based on his early recognition of Jesus being the Messiah and his getting the early church in Jerusalem organized.
As I think about who I am – as if I were trying to do a self-portrait by giving myself the perfect “job title” to describe who I am, not just the work I do, but who God created me to be – what would the job title be? “Happiness Engineer” might be a good start, but I’m not sure that’s exactly how I think about myself.
I guess that’s something else I want to think about this year – what job title would I like to create for myself? What kind of self-portrait should the job title reflect?