Ticking the boxes

Oriyomi Emmanuel is an Irish African tram driver in Dublin and he was acquitted this week of dangerous driving after his tram ploughed into a bus injuring 21 people. The court heard he had always been ‘extraordinarily proud’ of his job, had an immaculate record and was very popular among his colleagues.

He had given up smoking and drinking and even a marriage to get the job. He denied going through a stop signal and when faced with video evidence that he had done so he broke down and cried. The defence produced evidence thathis line of vision could have been blocked on that day and the judge decided it was ‘unsafe’ to allow the trial to proceed. Emmanuel cried when he heard the verdict, made the sign of the cross and left the court without comment.

I was struck by this story. There is something pure and simple about the incident. The driver was dedicated to andpassionate about his job and at first his whole world collapsed. No wonder he cried. But then the judge too was exemplary about hers. The evidence seemed to point one way yet she felt it was not conclusive and she replaced disaster with new life.

I came across this incident in the same week that I met an Irish Zimbabwean who teaches in a polytechnic. She struggles with her colleagues who tell her, “you take your work too seriously. It is only a job. Just tick the boxes and leave it like that.” She doesn’t agree. She wants her students to commit themselves to their work and be compassionate in their profession.

What do we think when we hear the words of Jesus, “every branch that bears fruit my Father prunes to make it bear more fruit?” (John 15:1-8) It sounds like a call to stretch beyond ‘doing a job,’ to reach out to people and help them draw deeply from the well of life (John 4:10).‘Make your home in me,’ he says, ‘as I make mine in you’. Jesus invites us to connect our lives with his and in searching for an image to explain this he uses the vine, a common sight in Palestine in his day.

This shrub, which is trained along wires, bears the grapes that will be crushed and become wine. Teresa of Calcutta used to say ‘the beauty of the vine is in the branches.’ We are the branches and so it is in us that the beauty of God shows itself. If we don’t reflect his beauty it won’t be reflected at all. The vine needs branches. God needs us. So whether we are tram drivers or judges, teachers or any other profession what we do is not just a job.

We are not here to ‘tick the boxes’ but, to use another metaphor, to move outside the boxes into a world of beauty and creativity, dedication and integrity. And we can do this insofar as we are united with the source of vitality, Jesus, the vine.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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