Back in mid-July, we had a post titled “How Do I Identify the Work That Matters?” This week in the U.S.A. we celebrate Labor Day, so I thought we could revisit the idea of meaningful work.
Today, let’s think about the work that is daily and not terribly exciting.
On a Daily Basis, What Makes Work Meaningful?
I used to get so frustrated at all the small, routine bits of work I must do just to maintain existence—cleaning, cooking, sorting/filing, and so on. But one day it occurred to me that maintenance must be pretty important, even in the spiritual view, because it is so woven into existence. We can’t avoid it; in fact, if we neglect maintenance, we are prevented from doing other things well. Unless we choose a very austere lifestyle that involves few possessions, no permanent household, and limited social commitments, we will deal with maintenance until we die.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking to people who spent most of their days just surviving. They cultivated crops or raised animals. They had to feed their children and maintain safe living conditions. In fact, until fairly recent history, most human beings spent most of their time simply maintaining (and, truthfully, most of the world’s population today is still in that position). I find it hard to imagine Jesus disapproving of all the hours folks were out working in their fields or repairing their houses or preparing meals. Jesus’ only warning had to do with too much concern over food and clothing; he urged people to resist anxiety over such things.
So, probably I can trim some maintenance time by getting rid of clutter and guarding against too heavy a schedule. But overall, I can reverence the daily work because it does matter. In the Christian tradition (and others), high value is placed on mindfulness, on being present to, and appreciative of, whatever is in front of me right now. This mindfulness can extend to doing the dishes and paying bills. It can extend to physical exercise and to checking the nine-year-old’s homework.
How do you find meaning in the maintenance of daily life?