From Colleague to Neighbor

“I grew up in the church and work wasn’t something that was preached,” said Adrienne Tafilowski, the Culture and Care Team Director at L&R Pallet and 5280 Fellowship alumna. “There weren’t small groups dedicated to the theme; people weren’t recommending books on the topic. It was kind of this unknown territory.”

When she began working at L&R Pallet a few years ago, Adrienne’s initial job description was similar to a human resources specialist, but the expectations went well beyond administering health plans and tracking hours. L&R Pallet, which has been highlighted by The Denver Post and Forbes, employs resettled refugees from countries in Asia, with six languages represented among its workforce.

Shortly after starting work, Adrienne began the 5280 Fellowship, a nine-month professional and spiritual development program for emerging leaders in Denver. The Fellowship provided Adrienne with the theological background that she had previously missed, and resolved more than a few questions about the role of faith and work.

She began to recognize the chance to serve her colleagues and their larger marginalized community as an expression of her Christian faith. “That’s really where I started: demonstrating a genuine concern for our team members as employees of our company but also as human beings living in the same place,” Adrienne explained.

A large part of Adrienne’s work is built around activities with her colleagues meant to instill a sense of dignity in roles often plagued by high turnover, physical risk, and little appreciation from anyone outside a colleague’s chain of command. “You don’t have to be a Christian to believe that you have a purpose at your workplace,” Adrienne shared. “What [our team members] do is important, and it’s more than just making sure the company makes money so we can give you a paycheck. They’ve got a bigger purpose in our city.”

Adrienne sees opportunities to integrate faith and work in other jobs and industries where serving the needs around you may be less obvious than working with resettled refugees. “You’re going to see and hear about needs, big needs and small needs, needs within the company and needs outside the company.” Adrienne believes that everyone can be “eyes to see and ears to hear” for the people around us, since Jesus’s definition of neighbor from the great commandment goes beyond the families on our cul-de-sacs. “The command to love thy neighbor...includes your coworker.”

For Adrienne, the 5280 Fellowship helped her to start reframing her thinking around work, seeing it as a privilege instead of a curse. “The Fellowship helped me break down the ‘compartmentalization’ between faith and work and helped me see ways that they actually go hand-in-hand,” Adrienne shared. “It made me see and feel a new heart for place, for city, and for people.”

That change of heart helped Adrienne view colleagues as neighbors, needs as opportunities, and a job as a platform. Sometimes, becoming the person we are meant to be, doing work we are meant to do, starts with little more than eyes to see what – and who – is already around us.