These are some thoughts that have been an encouragement to me. ‘Civilized living is so closely knit that when any piece drops out the whole fabric begins to crumple. Let city sanitation workers go out this week, and by next week streets are smothered in garbage. Give homemaking mothers leave, and many of us suddenly go hungry and see our kids running wild.
Let’s not the mistake, if ever we are tempted, of estimating the importance of our work, or of any kind of work, by the public esteem it enjoys.’ Lester DeKoster, Work the meaning of your life a Christian perspective
I know I have made this mistake and it is to my shame a misunderstanding of what work is. Work gives meaning to life because work is the form in which we make ourselves useful to others. Giving our selves to the service of others, as obviously required by the Lord, is precisely what the central block of life that we give to working turns out to be! Giving self to the service of others – that’s what work is!
I am [I]just[/I] a window cleaner (who’d happily be [I]just[/I] a business owner). It does consume a ton of my time, but for me it’s a means to an end. I would hope some of my other works are more meritorious than making someone’s dirt go away for awhile.
Although society views us as ‘just’ I am saying that is exactly the wrong term to describe ourselves. I am a window cleaner and proud of the work that I provide. In understanding how society and culture is created every part of the economy of life is important. To pit one job against the other, even in our own self talk, is to tear down the fabric of how civilization is built. In doing window cleaning, other people are freed to concentrate their energy and time on their jobs and thus provide a good or service that then I can turn around and buy. Work creates civilization and money spreads it around. I am a business owner, high school music teacher, a fisherman, a father, kayaker, mechanic, etc… but I don’t need to qualify that I am a window cleaner. My work is sufficiently valuable.
I see what you’re saying, Jared. I’ve seen the air different people assume around me, whether it’s relatives who just want to make sure I am “successful” whatever my career choice, to the wealthy who really appreciate what I’m doing for them. And the fellow business person whom I can get onto the same page with to the ones who view [I]themselves[/I]
as the greatest gift to me and treat me that way.
It does feel good when you feel viewed as a valuable resource of expertise and advice.
I’ll be honest, if I didn’t have to work I wouldn’t. All work has value and is important in some respects. But I’m not saving lives or changing the world here. Window cleaning is a means. It’s a vehicle. It allows me to be with my kids a heck of a lot more than working for someone else. Being a good dad is the most important thing for me at this point in my life. The type of work is sort of irrelevant if it gives you the freedom and flexibility to live your life the way YOU want. For me that’s being a good parent and enjoying life via mountain biking, hiking, disc golf, and ultimate frisbee.
Tom, I think work helps you be a good dad. By doing something consistently that requires labor, and sometimes difficult labor, it gives your children something positive to emulate. They have the example of someone who is not simply thinking of themselves but others; your customers, your family, civic concerns, etc. Work is a large and integral part to each of our days, at least 8 hours. Work is a core element of the personal dignity of every individual and we shape our children’s sense of dignity in part by how we teach them to view the largest time expenditure of their day. Our work is more than a means it is how we serve our neighbors regularly, how we employ our talents, it is a core element of how we learn to mature as men, it is how we generate well being for ourselves and family and for others. Work doesn’t find its meaning in a wage. If I try to or limit it to such than I think we rob ourselves and others of unquantifiable meaning.
Unless many workers just like ourselves did give themselves to making the chairs we are now sitting on, we would be sitting on the floor. Unless, of course, nobody ever invested himself in making us a floor. Then we would be sitting on the grass out in the backyard-unless nobody ever planted and mowed the grass! In a world without work being done by countless and anonymous someones, we would all be Tarzans swinging from tree to tree.
The day we went to work we locked hands with humankind in weaving the texture of civilized life-and our lives each found the key to meaning.
Our thread counts because it is done! So…I have been encouraged by these thoughts and have been able to find new meaning in the ‘just’. I hope this is an encouragement in reframing the value of what you do every day.