Working for a Purpose or a Cause, Not Just a Paycheck!


It’s been almost one full month since we returned to Texas after living in Thailand.  I returned to Houston a bit earlier than  J and M to help my parents take care of some family matters while J & M spent Mother’s Day with his Mom & Dad in Arlington.  I’m thankful we are back in the US to spend time with our parents, M’s grandparents.

J & M did join me later in Houston. While in Houston J was asked to do a consultation/presentation (which he loves to do and has done before on numerous occasions) at an organization which happens to be my last place of employment. It was a lunch time meeting.  M and I dropped him off and we headed out to take care of important things like getting my eye brows threaded with my favorite lady, Lina.  🙂

The real reason I’m writing this post isn’t really about THE Lina who can sculpt my eye brows so well.  Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could take her with me to Chaing Mai.

It is really about  what struck me and how our lives have taken in a direction I only dreamed of years ago.  And now we are living that dream.  As I was sitting in the lobby waiting for J to finish his presentation, that realization struck me.  It felt surreal!  It stirred me up emotionally.

I sat in that very same lobby back in 2002 when I applied for a position.   I am a Licensed Master Social Worker by profession.  At the time, it was a big deal for me.  It was a good professional move to take me to a different level and direction.  Previous to this, for nearly six years, I was at one of the best cancer hospitals in the US. Yeah, I got to wear a white coat the whole time, learned a lot about the God syndrome, a ton of office politics and most of all, about the strength and spirit of human beings.  Though it was a sure thing and a secured job,  like many turns in my life, it was time for me to move on.

I had  already relentlessly tried convincing J about the possibilities of moving to London since there was a major shortage of licensed Social Workers there at the time.  I mean, at the time we had no M and I was ready to go, anywhere!  I also tried to convince him that perhaps joining the Air Force as mental health professionals might do the job of us living abroad and see the world.  And how about teaching in Burma or Taiwan?  Evidently, I’m afraid the convincing I did just wasn’t enough at the time.

I felt that the new job was a good fit.   Since 2002, for almost six years, I worked at this not-for profit agency where I dedicated my skills and passion to helping not only the clients we served, but the people I worked with on a daily basis.

As I sat in the lobby yesterday, with M in front of me now an 8 year-old playing in that very same lobby, I sat with a sense of amazement and at peace with where I am in my life.   I saw familiar faces who have not a clue of who I am.  I also saw familiar faces that recognized my face.   I heard a familiar language being spoken when a young Burmese gentleman headed out of the lobby.  I had a good amount of time to simply sit and absorb.  Let’s just say that it was… ummm…. therapeutic in a good way.

My presence there brought back memories of my work with and dedication to the Houston community for over 20 years as a professional and as a citizen (I decided not to count my teenage years.  I’m pretty sure I was in la-la land.)   I was reminded of my mind-set back then: that to work for an organization is to work for the people.

I was working for the cancer patients served trough affordable housing.  I was working for the AIDS patients that needed the financial and emotional support. I was working for the frail seniors who may have gone unnoticed otherwise.  And I was working for the dedicated staff, volunteers and students who made the day-to-day work happen.  Truth is, without them there would not have been programs for me to manage, there would not have been funding for me to budget and certainly, there would have been no need for me to write policies and procedures to protect the clients and the staff.

I was working for a purpose, a cause, not just a paycheck. 

I was a proud and a hard worker!  Some days grinning from ear to ear because I was truly proud of my work.  Other days, I grinned (perhaps not as so eagerly) even though my days were long and tedious and went unappreciated.  Such is life for all worker bees, I suppose.

It was a nice welcome back when I walked into the agency and the first thing I noticed that warmed my heart was this sign.  And how nice it is that even the smallest of acts like these are still carried-on without me.

Everyone I came across that knew me were friendly and hospitable.  I was able to go up to the third floor where my office was and staffs’ offices are.  It was an emotional moment for me when one of the staff (I hardly knew because she was hired after I left) greeted me as if she’s known me.  She also began to speak about how much I’m missed and talked about, all in good intentions.  Then I saw a few other staff that I’ve not seen in a long time.  I guess in many ways, being back in Houston is emotional for me on many levels (not just professionally, but personally).

Honestly, I realized why that was an important and emotional moment for me.  It’s not because they all made me feel good about being there, that was really nice, but the real reason would be because M was there to witness and hear what people had to say about my work as a professional.  I left my last job in 2007 when M was only four.  Although she does remember me going to work there and taking her to school on my way to work.

I guess I want her to see that I am a capable professional aside from being her mother.  I guess I want her to look up to me.  Strange statement I know. Strange for me to write it.  Maybe she already does.   I can only plan to create many more opportunities in our near future to do more good work in Chiang Mai with our daughter.   I’m excited about those plans and projects.

For now, I will take comfort in knowing that I made a difference and an impact  in the lives of many while I was here in Houston.

And to the friendly people who made me feel welcomed on a Friday the 13th, Thank You!  You know who you are!

Message to M:  “The most beautiful make-up of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”  ~Yves Saint Laurent

We Say NO to the Status Quo.

Live Small.  Live Green.  Give Large.  Take Little.

Take Notice.  Take Action

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3 thoughts on “Working for a Purpose or a Cause, Not Just a Paycheck!

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