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The Joy of Good Work

By Philip Humbert

In the U.S., this is our "Labor Day" holiday, a time when we generally try to avoid anything that looks like work. Many will go camping, spend the day at the beach, or perhaps at a family picnic. And some of us will take really long, luxurious naps!

Unfortunately, very few will pause to be grateful for the work they do. Only a handful will take time to honor and acknowledge the joy of work, and I find that very sad.

Too many of us believe "work" is something to be avoided, and these people dream of a path to instant wealth, because then they would "never work again." I suspect that's why the universe makes sure most of them never achieve the success they desire!

I see work as a great honor and source of fulfillment, although clearly there is both "good" and "bad" work. I also believe the difference between "good" and "bad" work is one of the most important distinctions in life! It makes all the difference between a life of success and fulfillment, and one of disappointment.

"Bad work" is something for which we are not suited, or which we do for the wrong motives. For me, "bad work" would be earning a living as a musician. My brother plays cello for the Jacksonville symphony, and for him, music is the work of the angels. He was blessed with great talent and he loves it. I can't carry a tune in a bucket, and when I was a kid, my weekly piano lessons were very hard for me, my parents, and Mrs. Bystrom, my long-suffering piano teacher.

Doing work for which we are ill-suited is so stressful that it borders on the immoral. Life is meant to be joyful, and to be productive. Doing work we hate gives honorable work a bad name. And at least potentially, it prevents a talented person from doing the creative work that would make the world a much, much better place!

As I see it, work is our chance to partner with God to create a better, richer, more exciting world. Work is our opportunity to leave our footprints in the sands of time. Work is our chance to say, "I was here, I made a difference and I left things better than I found them." To me, that is work worth doing!

Over the years, through my various jobs and hobbies, I've met wonderful people who have found meaning and purpose in their work. Mike, our UPS driver, excels and delights in driving his delivery truck. Others have found joy in police work, writing, doing therapy, or in construction. One of my golfing partners loves teaching biology, and it shows in his attitude and in his student's grades.

Vicki is a server at my favorite coffee shop. She has 3 kids, her husband is a chef, and for whatever reason, helping a couple hundred people start their day with hot coffee, a good breakfast and a smile is her calling in life. She's a treasure, and is loved by hundreds of loyal customers.

One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me is, "Find something you love to do, and you'll never work another day the rest of your life." While I quibble with that small definition of "work," the point is essential. In our technological age, we have the greatest freedom in history to do work that is uniquely ours!

Work is a very personal thing. It's about combining time and effort with your talents and the situation around you to make things better. It's about making a difference. It's about making your contribution, and being productive.

This Labor Day, give thanks for the work you do and the difference it makes. Celebrate your contribution to your community and our world. And, if you are not doing the perfect job for you, pledge that by next year, you WILL be doing the right work. Life is too short to spend it doing work for which you are not suited! You owe that to yourself and to the world. We need your best stuff, your best effort, your passion and your unique genius. We need Vicki's smile at breakfast.

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