Thursday, July 21, 2011

Passion and Pizza: Finding Callings in Surprising Places

Sometimes my students teach me profound things about work as a calling. One day when I was teaching in Ohio, I asked the students (as I often do) what work they would do if they were wildly wealthy. I got the typical list, ranging from sports franchise owner to humanitarian.

Then one student, Nick LaRosa, said "I would do what I do right now. I'd serve pizza."

At first, I thought Nick was joking. Why would someone choose food service, of all things, if he could do any work he wanted? But Nick was absolutely serious.

Nick's grandfather, if my memory serves, is the founder of LaRosa's Pizzeria in Cincinnati, and Nick grew up in the family business. You can check out the company here.

As near as I recall, Nick explained his answer as follows: 

"I love what I do. People come to our restaurant to celebrate, and to be with each other. When I serve them a great pizza, I'm part of a memory-making moment. I can't think of anything more satisfying than contributing to wonderful memories among family and friends." 

As Nick finished speaking, the class grew quiet -- almost reverent. It was a moving testimonial. 

Nick's comments reminded me of one of my favorite interviews in Studs Terkel's book "Working." Terkel interviewed a waitress named Dolores Dante who considered herself an artist at her food service craft. You might want to check out an excerpt of what she had to say here. It's amazing. Better yet, buy the book!

In any case, Nick taught me that we might be missing the boat if we are looking for glamor in our life's calling. Instead, maybe we should be looking for the simple acts that we love to do -- particularly the ones that make others happy. 

Oh, and make sure you give a big smile and a big tip to food servers who treat you like Nick and Dolores would!

1 comment:

  1. great thought. and my wife is from Cincinnati and used to work at LaRosa's Pizza. she talks about how amazing it is at least twice a day.