I only ever run into my childhood friend Josh Tobias at times of great sadness, when someone has died.
Not because we don’t both have families and children and other community involvements. No, it seems that the only time I see Josh is at a funeral, at Ira Kaufman Chapel, which he manages.
The way Josh found his path toward meaningful work is, of course, so unpredictable, it’s almost a miracle that he found his way there. With a history in banking and finance, and a wife with a social work degree and a specialty in bereavement, Josh was looking for his calling under the guidance of a good friend.
One day, this friend called and told Josh to sit down and listen. “You won’t at first think this is for you, but I think it could be perfect,” she said, and began to tell him about a job opening at a funeral home.
That was three years ago, and he’s loved every day since.
“I get to meet a family on a Monday, and by Wednesday it’s like I am part of them,” he says.
“Yes, I have to put on rubber gloves and prepare a body for burial; that’s a part of this job. But I love what I do.”
Josh’s thunder-roll deep voice is at once soothing and authoritative. He is compassionate and kind. He appears from the crowd every time I am there with that indefinable smile and offers a hug so solid, you almost feel you’ve come home.
I can only imagine what a comfort he must be to the families tossed into the roiling sea of mourning. Without direction, without their north star, he becomes their guide. He walks them through the last moments and rituals of a cherished life and helps them emerge sure-footed on the shore.
Meaningful work isn’t something you choose in college, when you’re scurrying for your degree and paying work post-graduation. It’s the thing that happens to you along the way, like a fly on the windshield when you’re driving at highway speed. It just smacks into you and though you try to shake it off, it sticks.
The point of this life is to find moments and hours and weeks and years that matter. Direction to do the kind of work that only you can do, that makes the world a little bit better every day that you do it.
Work that’s easy for you so as to make it not work anymore, but no one else could do it quite like you do.
I’ve known Josh since we were very small. He grew up alongside my sister, and his brother was one of my dearest childhood friends. And now, we’re in a new phase, a friendship of our own, where I get to admire this incredible work, this person he’s become.
( And of course it is no coincidence that his wife now works with numbers while he is carrying out her training. How well-matched are they?)
What a lucky guy. What a path to follow. Listening to his calling, knowing it was only for him, rising to the challenge.