What Do You Do?

A harmless and simple question to be sure.

The other day I was finishing up an appointment with my husband when the lady who was working with us asked me, ” And what do you do?”

I always have to stop and say, “What DO I do?” By now you would have thought I’d have come up with a set response that I can whip out, but I haven’t. As someone who can spin anything into a positive, you would think I could answer a common question like this in a moment. But I can’t.

People love to label each other and the quickest way to label someone is to find out what they “do”. Not knowing how to answer is part of what keeps me confused about what exactly I am doing. Or what I’m supposed to be doing.

Labels really bug me. I was part of a discussion the other day that centered around which was more effective, contemporary worship or traditional. My question is and was – why do we have to choose? Would people run screaming from a contemporary service if a traditional hymn or two were sung as long as they didn’t have to give up their donuts? Would the majority of people in traditional worship run if a guitar showed up so long as they could sit in “their” pew? If there were no labels would people just adjust to the blend? Even in the church we want to label and separate.

And what about labels in general? When I was awoken this morning, the first thing I heard from the bedside radio in my foggy morning haze was that “the man asked if they were democrats or republicans?” I shook out the sleepiness to realize there had been another shooting. Evidently the man who asked the question there at the Congressional soft ball practice didn’t like the answer he heard and commenced to shooting.

Having a sense of who you are and an identity is important. Having to label every aspect of our lives makes us more and more divided. With each new label we find something we don’t like about the person next to us, instead of focusing on the fact that they are indeed just that- another person.

Right now I am having a hard time understanding how some people can feel the way they do about certain issues. But that is a difference of opinion, not a difference of species. It is not a difference that is beyond building a bridge between. It is not a difference that should foster hate and violence.

I don’t know what to say I “do” right now. Writing, teaching, acting, living. None of those answers are really what I want to say when asked, “What do you do?” And quite frankly I am not too thrilled with any label that you want to project onto me because you want a reason to separate us.

I especially don’t need a label that makes you feel superior or gives you an excuse to put me down, or even worse, shoot me. I am so mad, sad, horrified and bewildered how we are still hurting each other, still trying to separate ourselves into made up groups and still finding a way to justify it all.

As a teenager in the 1970s I thought the world was moving to a better time. As an old woman I am sad that we are not.

“What do you do?” you ask me. Pray for peace and unity mostly.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.