It’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not referring to Lent, but one much more secularly painful: income tax season. It’s time for all of us to gather up the receipts, stubs, statements, and financial declarations of what we did last year so we can render unto Caesar / Uncle Sam what is legally his. I’m not a big fan of filling out these financial disclosures, but strive to be accurate since I’m even less of a fan of audits and incarceration. But all those numbers aren’t the worst part of the exercise for me. The duty I hate the most is filling in the blank labeled “Occupation”.
I’ve always had difficulty with short, fill-in-the-blank situations. Years ago, when I first registered to join my parish, I was surprised to see an unusual inquiry amidst the humdrum name/address/telephone inquiries: “Do you have a handicap?” I suppose the church was assessing the need for a potential parishioner’s assistance with a wheelchair ramp, hearing assistance device or Braille hymnal, but I saw another option. In the blank after the question, I dutifully wrote in “My personality”.
Such creativity on the tax form probably wouldn’t be wise, but picking just one of my multiple occupations for that pesky blank is tough. What is my primary occupation? I am a reporter, blogger, church cantor, hospital worker, mother, friend, and fan of sushi, skeeball, and the Jersey shore (not necessarily in that order). How can I best identify myself, I wondered.
And then I had an answer. Recently I sang at the Baptismal rite of my friend’s granddaughter. The tiny child of God, swaddled in a 104-year-old white baptismal gown, lay quietly in her parents’ arms as Father Joe poured a trickle of water over her forehead and anointed her with blessed oil. He pronounced Sophie Jane “the earth’s newest Christian”, and she became a fellow traveler in our faith.
Faith. No matter how many diverse jobs I undertake throughout the year, everything is a reflection of my faith. Whether spoken, sung, or chronicled, that is the truest definition of how I occupy my time. So, on this year’s tax form, I’ll enter “Keeper of the Faith” in that occupation blank. It may not be what Uncle Sam and the IRS expects, but it’ll be the truth. (Now, it’s time to investigate whether debtor’s prison has Wi-Fi so I can continue to blog from behind bars….)