How Work Makes Us More Human
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
I overhead an older lady in a nursing home today. She was telling the Activities Director that she was desperate for some “work” to do. She said, “I know I’m lucky but this…” she vaguely waved her hands to indicate the comfortable facility around her, “is killing me.”
Most of us are probably overworked and do not have this problem. I do remember years ago talking to a multi-millionaire who had retired and was looking for new projects to spend his time on. He was in his early 60’s. He said, “You know, every day is like Saturday to me these days. But that kind of gets old.”
There’s something about real work that makes us feel more honest, less ashamed and happier. I see this in my children. As they learn to work alongside my husband, Dale, and I, I see the realization dawning of their own inherent usefulness to themselves. It’s wonderful to be useful! It’s wonderful to be needed, to be relied on. When I was young, and I was helping in some way, my Mom or Dad’s words of praise to commend me gave me such a good feeling.
It draws on the healthy pride we have as human beings in our own abilities and skills. This is not something to rail against OR dismiss. It just IS. We are humans, we are creative, we’ve been designed for good works and embracing this is powerful.
So for the people in our lives who are not finding anyone needing them, mainly our senior citizens in the Western World, this is a BIG deal. We are denying them the right to be fully human. If I were that activities director, I’d set up some work areas. Seriously, a garden in Spring through summer, indoor chores, service activities out in the community…I get it, the logistics would be a bit to work through but wow, wouldn’t you rather live in a retirement center where you could do jazzercise AND work in the veggie garden (which you’ll eat from in August) AND have a hand in doing some work for your community?
If you are among the people who have children, you probably feel overworked but I would challenge you to give more work to your children. Just do it. Get your toddler setting the table. Get your 6 year-old folding the clothes and putting them away. Everybody can help when there’s company for dinner. Let your teens run the house – a month of “real life” (food shopping and following the budget, monthly bills paid, things cleaned up, meals on the table, laundry rolling, time to have fun, etc.) will stick with them afterwards. My theory is that if you work hard as a child/teen on school, chores, projects, serving out in the community, you will relish the time you get to play and have fun.
If you’re someone who is feeling maxed out, you probably won’t be hurt by a reminder that this season of being needed by lots of people will not last forever. Eventually we’ll have to seek out people who need our help so join me in being thankful for breathless days and small hands and aging parents and grandparents and money that must be earned and bills that must be paid. We got this. It’s dignified to be a human at work.