The Difference Between a Job and a Calling

Michigan public safety officer Ben Hall’s job is to serve on the force in Emmett Township. Like many jobs, his includes a clear set of rules, procedures and regulations. But those rigid policies didn’t define Officer Hall in the way they define so many others.

During a routine traffic stop last week, he noticed something wrong when he pulled over a young woman for a moving violation.

The woman’s young daughter was buckled in the back seat but without a car seat. Now, according to the Michigan Vehicle Code, child restraint systems are required for kids under 4 years of age. Officer Hall’s job, in this case, is to enforce the law. Accordingly, the correct procedure would be to promptly issue a ticket for this violation as a civil infraction.

Luckily, this officer was able to connect with his calling — to protect citizens and ensure public safety. He decided to put that purpose ahead of technical rule enforcement, choosing instead to help out. He learned that the woman wanted to protect her child but had fallen on hard times and couldn’t afford a car seat. Officer Hall instructed the woman to follow him to the closest Walmart.

He escorted them inside and purchased a car seat with his own money. He followed his heart instead of the dusty rulebook, and did far more to protect the safety of a young girl than he could have by issuing a pricey citation.

Ben Hall

The media reported on his gesture. The news item describing his selfless act was picked up by CNN and others.

Each of us has jobs to do; policies to follow; tasks to complete. But in the process, let’s not forget why we signed up in the first place. Acting in accordance with your greater purpose should be your guidepost; not just saluting the flag of policy while your mission goes unfilled.

Now I’m not suggesting we forego the order of law or “go rogue” in some irresponsible manner. I’m simply suggesting that each of us needs to zoom out and reconnect with our calling. Purpose should trump procedure. Mission should win over method.

Officer Hall’s bold move made a real difference. Not just for one young girl, but for the thousands of us inspired by his selfless act. My guess is he’ll get reimbursed in one way or another for the car seat in the form of a raise, charitable donation or simply deep personal satisfaction (he probably enjoyed buying the car seat far more than spending his money in other ways).

Let’s prioritize our calling over the mundane tasks for our jobs. When we get on with the work we’re passionate about — the work that makes a meaningful impact in people’s lives — everyone wins.