Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Labor of Love

Unseasonably mild the past few days.  Drove my route with the driver side window down at times.  People wearing shorts and sandals walking around town.  Again with the unusual weather. 

This past weekend, my wife and I received a pair of tickets from friends to see the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra at the Kimmel Center.  In addition to the beautiful music, I was inspired to reflect upon the time and devotion that the musicians have invested in their craft.  At least for this particular performance, the players exhibited a deep respect for the music itself, for their individual expressions, and for the appreciative audience.  It seemed clear that this was not merely a day at work for these people but a labor of love full of meaning that transcended the monetary compensation they were receiving.

How many of us feel that way at our jobs?

As many of you know, I deliver newspapers in the wee morning hours, everyday, no exceptions.  I also work full time in a retail environment.  At times I have been reminded that perhaps I should be employed in work that is more challenging, and am asked if I am bored in these endeavors.  Perhaps I have not attained the professional stature that my parents imagined on that day when I was born.  Perhaps I took the easy route as opposed to challenging myself with studies, or employment that might have better matched my talents.  It would be too easy to shrug away those thoughts with "I guess this was my destiny" or "the breaks didn't fall my way", or "its not what you know but who you know", but I will not use those excuses.  I made my choices and for better or worse, will live by the results.  But, as for being bored, that is one disease that I will not succumb to. 

Boredom is not a product of the act you perform but a product of your perception of that act.  

It is certainly easy to criticize the athlete who takes a game off, then a week, then half a season, or musicians, artists, or entertainers who "go through the motions" after weeks of performing the same songs or show.  We accuse them of a lack of respect for their trade and their talent and themselves.  We think we see what they cannot -  that they have forgotten the original spark that inspired them to pursue those areas of expression and we wish we had that talent (and money) and declare that if we did, we certainly wouldn't be wasting it but would appreciate it. 

But then we go off to work.  We watch the clock, we make plans for the weekend, we chat with our fellow employees, we complain about our employer and our customers and our lives.   We are working for the money, only, yet can't understand why someone making millions of dollars would have a perspective any different from our own.

Whether it is a natural byproduct of the change in the nature of the jobs we perform, jobs that no longer result in a tangible product that we can look upon with pride, jobs that required working with living things such as animals, jobs that included preparing a field, planting seeds and harvesting the crops, whether it is a culture that values money and possessions over honesty and integrity, or whether it is the corporate mentality that provides us with an excuse to gauge everything with the yardstick of the dollar, and enables those in charge to use profit as an excuse to regard labor as getting the most while paying the least, it is clear that pride in our jobs is becoming a lost attribute.

Or perhaps we just don't know what pride in our jobs entails.

Pride in your job means throwing papers up driveways or jumping out to toss one on a porch or double bagging when it is raining knowing that someone might depend on that paper for their link to the world.  Pride in your job is keeping the shelves fully stocked and fronted knowing that small people shop too, and ringing your customer's purchase at the register with a smile or pleasantry.  Pride in your job is picking the orders as quickly and efficiently as possible knowing that someone is dependent on that product arriving as ordered.  Pride in your job is cooking fast food properly and serving it hot and fresh knowing that the hungry person on the other side of the counter is pressed for time.  Pride in your job is sweeping up at the end of the day so the next shift whether it is you or not, can start with a clean work area.  Pride in your job is examining the monetary ramifications of an investment or mortgage in light of what is best for your clients and not just for the commission it will generate for you.  Pride in your job is accepting the honor of representing your country as an elected official then doing your utmost to fashion policies and laws that benefit the everyday people you represent and not just the ones with money and status.

Pride in your job is performing at a rate beyond the mere salary or status assigned to that job.  It is YOUR job and a reflection of YOUR character.

And, amazingly enough, pride in your job, laboring with love, makes the day pass easily and takes the work out of working.

No comments:

Post a Comment