Motivation: Connectedness (the final piece of the puzzle)

So far in this mini-series of bulletin articles, we have learned that motivation needs more than an economic component. We all like getting paid, but it is overrated. Instead, our motivation is of- ten an intrinsic part of our activity. We need au- tonomy, the ability to choose our work and our courses of action. We need competence, the ability to accomplish growth, especially with something challenging and difficult. The third component of motivation is connectedness.

Simply put, in order to do great things, you have to see that you are part of something way, way bigger than yourself. Without it, our actions, our deeds, our teaching, seems small, inconsequential and ultimately unimportant.

My favorite story about this goes back to the 1960’s. President Lyndon Johnson was touring NASA in Houston, Texas. As he was walking along the halls, he witnessed a man, a janitor, brightly sweeping the floors. Johnson was taken aback by the man’s almost joyous attitude towards his rather mundane task. The President stopped and asked the man: “What do you do around here?” The man looked up from his sweeping and said directly: “Mr. President, I am helping send a man to the moon!” He wasn’t just a janitor, he was part of a historic team that was doing the impossible, and that attitude propelled him to do his job and do it with gusto and joy.

I recently read an article about how Americans, in droves, are quitting their jobs. I am sure that the pandemic had much to do with it. But the article went on to talk about how people needed those three things I mentioned in order to feel motivated in their work.  They especially need to feel that they have a connection with something bigger and greater than themselves.

I like to think of Holy Redeemer as a family. One of the things that pushes my buttons is when someone remarks that the notion of the Family, whether at my old school Borgia or here at HR, is a sham and a lie. Several years ago, a graduating Senior from Borgia remarked that “family” was basically nonexistent at school. Were we perfect at Borgia? Are we perfect here at Holy? Not even close. Are there times when we failed each other? Definitely. But I cannot help but feel that there is something at both places that was beyond the ordinary, something that was special, something that you don’t always find in an institution. I think of the times of tragedy where people just spontaneously gathered to be with one another. I think of the way students rallied around a student with cancer or someone who went into a coma or someone who lost a loved one in a tragedy. We have our faults. Well, la-de-dah! But the breath and the depth and the height and the power of the family we surround ourselves with is unmistakable.

I have many students who have become incredibly successful: doctors, lawyers, business people, teachers (some became my colleagues and employees).  I would like to think that I had a part to play in their success. There was one person that I would like to share a story about. I wish I could say I did something spectacular. I wish I could say that I imparted to her words of deep wisdom.  I wish I could say that I taught her some profound thought.  But the truth is, all I did, was stop her in the hallway and ask her how her day was going. At the time, it seemed like her response was normal: “it’s OK, RevKev.” I later found out that my simply stopping her in the hall and expressing a modicum of concern about her life was exactly what she needed at exactly the right time. What I found out later is that, she had been in the throes of deep depression and was ready, that very day, to end her life. Melo-dramatic. Yep. But all it took was a simple greeting to change a life.

Don’t let the haters fool you or convince you otherwise.

We are family.

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