Daniel Scharpenburg
3 min readSep 21, 2021

Steward is a word that has a lot of different connotations.

According to the Oxford Dictionary Stewardship is “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.”

A steward is someone who takes care of something. Stewardship is the act of taking care of something. Some churches have stewards who take care of funds and property. A steward of the environment is someone who does a good job cleaning up and taking care of the world around them.

I’m a Union Steward, which is defined as “An employee of an organization or company who represents and defends the interests of their fellow employees as a labor union member and official.”*

So, as I said, a steward is someone who takes care of something. In my labor union context it’s someone who takes care of other people. In the Christian context it’s someone who takes care of the Lord’s creation or is dedicated to service, to a higher calling. Christians are called to remind themselves that nothing belongs to them, they’re stewards of things but not owners.

I’m not a Christian, but I like this concept very much.

It’s not far removed from the Buddhist concept of the Bodhisattva, who is helping others on the spiritual path.

A Bodhisattva is one who has “generated a compassionate mind and strives toward awakening and empathy in order to benefit all beings.”*

I don’t want to be a Buddhist. I want to be a Bodhisattva.

And I don’t want to be a union representative, I want to be a steward.

See what I did there? It’s bigger and more significant. It’s not a job, it’s a calling.

That is the intersection between my spirituality and my career. My spiritual practice helps me to develop empathy, patience, and mindfulness. And all of these things help in my role as a steward. I want to take care of people, I want to help them. And I want to use a tremendous amount of my time and energy to do that because it is so important.

I don’t know if I’m the only Buddhist Union Steward in the United States, but I’m the only one I know. And it seems like a good fit to me. It took me a long time to find my life’s purpose and this is it.

Daniel Scharpenburg

Labor Activist. Union Leader, Meditation Teacher