09 March 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Two

What is my relationship to my work? Am I a slave to my work?

I'm not a slave to my work. I place my work in a context of study, exercise, reflection and renewal, and thanksgiving. I try to keep work in balance with the other four; sometimes work takes more time, sometimes less time. I've taken forty years to arrive at this conclusion. I'm blessed in that I have enough education and God-given gifts and talents to choose my work. What do I mean by work? I mean labor.

What is my work? My first job was on a maintenance crew in a Republic Steel cold-roll steel mill in Cleveland, Ohio. One of my tasks was to clean unimaginably giant steel rolling-pins used to flatten cold-roll steel to a specific thickness. Another task was to assist a crewman maintain the even bigger machines those pins fit into. We would get underneath those machines. I was shocked by this. I lasted three weeks.

I have worked as a flower delivery person, a door-to-door salesman in a city, a janitor, a taxi-cab driver, a grocery store clerk, an office man in an art gallery, a textbook buyer, a bank teller and then a head-teller, and a bookkeeper. I have done credit investigations to set up credit lines for buyers of fine art at an international auction house in NYC.

I have worked for sustained periods as a bookseller, a photographer, a writer and advertiser in print and radio medias, an administrator in a church, and a toymaker. I'm planning to work for money as a mower of lawns during the coming growing season.

I've been ashamed, especially as a young man, of many of the tasks and jobs I've worked. This is a fact most telling about me and my relationship to my work. Not so much now, but some work was simply beneath me. Alas . . . this is a sadness. So some work was humbling and character building and I continue to learn a great deal from this fact. I hope I never make any person, never make any of my children, feel ashamed of the work they do. It is absolutely appalling to shame a person for the work he or she does.

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