It is always a privilege to get to see people glorifying God through their work. Their example reminds me of a verse from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance.”
While meeting two seniors from St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn, New York, at a women’s professional day event, I was reminded of how important it is to work hard but also to know what you are trying to achieve and why.
The students I met are proud of the ways their school motivates them and empowers them to lead and serve. After mentioning their initiatives in the sciences, the students involved in the program quickly moved on to mention the accomplishments of their classmates, such as their efforts to fight human trafficking. Their education at St. Joseph’s nurtures their leadership skills and ignites their charitable spirit, they said.
I was happy to see what the future (and the present) of the church looks like. As the day progressed, students heard from 60 professional women who took half of their day to share their experiences and answer questions. Many of these women exemplified hard work and a strong faith.
The honesty coming from one of them particularly inspired the students. Attorney Margarita Ramos, an employment law expert and the day’s keynote speaker, stressed that education is key to success, regardless of your station in life. Her life is a testament of that.
Ramos is the youngest of five daughters who grew up in Spanish Harlem. Her mother — who had come from Puerto Rico when she was 19 to work as a seamstress — had been raised by relatives who never sent her to school. Her lack of education, coupled with the difficulty she encountered learning English, meant that her career options would always be limited.
“We often went hungry; there was never enough money for bare essentials,” Ramos recalled. “I’d often miss school trips because my mother could not afford to pay for my lunch.”
Ramos knows how fortunate she was to be in a country where women can pursue an education. Ramos said that providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty. Ramos knows the power of education. She said “learning and dreaming” sustained her as a child.
After finishing her homework, Ramos would spend hours in the library reading and daydreaming about the life she wanted. Those dreams became a blueprint. Ramos graduated college and later earned a law degree from State University of New York at Buffalo. Her life is filled with accomplishments, but she chose to talk to the students about her family’s story and how being educated is a key to success in life.
The other professionals that day included forensic scientists, artists, doctors, professors and entrepreneurs. They gave students advice on how to persevere, succeed and value all aspects of life. Many inspired the students to continue to learn and give glory to God through their work.
They also had suggestions for those moments when life feels like a routine, or worse, when there is a crisis. When things seem like they are not working, if you are doing your best and you are working wholeheartedly, things eventually work out according to God’s plans and times, they said.