Work: What They Did for Love

 

Who hasn’t heard the quote,

“Do what you love and

the money will follow”

OR

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Everyone from Confucious to Warren Buffet have weighed in on the idea of working for love, not for money.  A lovely thought, right? As a retiree, I actually have the privilege of doing exactly that.  But, it wasn’t the always the case.  I worked for decades  at jobs I sometimes loved and sometimes didn’t,  in order to attain the right to enjoy the luxury of  working only for love in this new season of life.

In our world today, we have an abundance of humans who grew up hearing and believing that they should live their passion, follow their hearts and do what they love in order to make their careers meaningful.   The result is that many of these individuals are failing to launch at a somewhat alarming rate and the world now has an  abundance of marine biology grad’s and  would be life-style mavens, many  still living with their parents well into their 30’s and beyond.  ‘Anyone want to take a poll on how many college educated Uber drivers we have out there waiting for their dream job to materialize?

Here’s the deal:

Hardly anyone is passionate about plumbing or  janitorial work, being an electrician, an auto mechanic, a roofer, a heat and AC installer, a pest exterminator   a trash collector or a house painter.  But, we as a society need all of those people and each of those are noble professions when done with dignity.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

My own parents moved their  young family to California when it became clear that my Dad’s  job on the railroad was going to be eliminated.  He and my mom sold the brand new home they’d  only recently built in Montana.  With what I’m sure were a trunk full of mixed emotions, they packed up and moved their family to Southern California.  There was no job waiting, just a deeply felt sense of responsibility  to provide for the family they had built.

When they arrived in California my father took a job at a lumber mill until incessant rains shut it down indefinitely.  They struggled to make ends meet. There were dark days.   Next, he found work with a janitorial service who admired his good work but wanted him to cut corners so he would be done faster.  Finally he was hired as a custodian for the school down the street from our home.  I was too young to know that the position of janitor was not a highly esteemed one, but, I was proud to have my dear Dad known and loved by all the children in that school. Through the years he advanced and ultimately was promoted to the position of  Director of Maintenance for the entire  district.  In   the meantime, he also started his own Janitorial Service which he worked at every weeknight from 6-10 after a full day at his day job.  And, every weekend another 12 hours total as well.  Seven. Days. A week.  Until he retired.

My in-laws travelled an remarkably similar path. Selling their home in Pennsylvania to move to California for a better life,  my father-in-law came expecting to join his brother in his small business.  Sadly  after investing nearly all their life savings, the business failed. He was truly struck down but refused to be defeated.  He couldn’t afford to.   Instead he did whatever he could to provide for his family. He delivered dry cleaning, did interior house painting, cleaned the local Knights of Columbus Hall, performed handyman work and became a salesman at Sears. When he retired from that position, he continued to do handyman work on the side in order to supplement his retirement income.

Two wise and determined men–both fathered four children.  Between them, well over a century of marriage.   Though their job histories may not have been coveted by many,  both men left inheritances by their examples of faithfulness, tenacity and  hard work while also providing financial gifts to their heirs.

 

Neither of these two good men had jobs that they were particularly excited about.  But , make no mistake,  both men lived their passion. They both understood that their purpose wasn’t self-fulfillment but instead to provide well for their families.   Although they may not have put it in these exact words, they both lived as if their divine calling was to provide for the needs of their wives and children.   Therein lies the difference.  We  as a culture may well have confused the value of work and responsibility with  that of pursuing our passions.

“…I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot.  Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.  He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”   –Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

There is nothing  wrong with seeking a career in a field you love.  And if you’re very fortunate, it may happen.  But, every career dream needs a “sell by date.”  If you love acting but can’t make a living doing it,  you’d be wise to find work that pays your bills and  maybe join a community theater group.  If you want to do something that reflects your values, keep working hard, doing your best  at your day job and then,  volunteer for an organization that promotes your passions.

Whatever you do, work hard and the money will come.  As for “never working a day in your life,” while that sounds nice,  they call it “work” for a reason.  Even the greatest job in the world becomes work over time. What will make it worthwhile isn’t the money, the status, the title or the acclaim from others, but the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done it well and  provided for the future of your flock. Whatever you’re called to do, do it well.

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.  When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field, you will have plenty of goats milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.  He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.”   Proverbs 27:23-27

(Both oil paintings were created by my amazing and gifted brother-in-law Dan Mandish   Visit his collection at:  https://saltandlighteditions.wordpress.com)

 

 

Not Like the “Other” Mothers

I write this on the eve of the anniversary of my mom’s death eight years ago.  Ironically she crossed over on Mother’s Day.

I’ve learned a few things since then.  Through the eyes of others who loved and enjoyed her, I’ve learned to appreciate gifts I didn’t fully acknowledge when she walked through this world. I recently came across a handful of sympathy cards we received back then and my heart was warmed by the remembrances of many dear friends  and loved ones.

She and my Dad both adored babies and taught us all to love them, too.  One friend said that she was someone who especially cared for children who were sometimes forgotten by others.  She had an ability to relate to little ones in ways most adults have forgotten.  She had a childlike quality that allowed her to come down to their level and make them squeal with glee and long to be in her presence.

A friend and neighbor  recalled that she could remember my Mom so clearly-with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth as they cut up a ton of plums, trying to make plum jam.  “She could talk me into doing just about anything.”  I find that story especially amusing because in my lifetime, I don’t remember my mother EVER making anything remotely like plum jam.  Cooking was not something she particularly  enjoyed, but viewed it more as a necessary evil.  Still, she convinced her friend to give plum jam a go.

Others called her “a character,” referred to her big heart, remembered her as loving and generous and a great friend.  One said “she always made me feel welcome and a part of your family.”  The one that made me laugh the most though, was, “she loved giving advice.”  Yes.  Yes she did. Lots and lots of advice to lots and lots of people.

She was different from the “other” moms.    She rarely wore dresses or  any makeup and she cursed with some regularity.  Her hair was always cut short and she wore  jeans long before they were  fashionable.  She drank Coke for breakfast and then throughout the day.   She knew the managers and the clerks at the market and the drug store and was on a first name basis with the bank president.  She used her connections to get countless friends and family members  jobs when they needed one.  She was a master networker before  networking was a thing.

It occurred to me that she planted the seed of hospitality in me.  Looking back I remember how she and my Dad welcomed a long parade of family members and friends into our home to live with us for brief periods.  There were foster babies waiting adoption,  relatives in transition, friends experiencing  hard times and once even one of my mom’s hospital patients who needed a place to recover.  The welcome mat was always out and there was always an extra seat at the dinner table for whoever stopped by.

She would regularly  strike up  conversations with  total strangers at the mall and knew all her neighbors and all of their kids.  She loved to “go visit” and we often had to track her down because it hadn’t occurred to her to tell us where she was going or when she’d return.  She was unpredicatable.   Whatever was on her mind often slipped out of her mouth to the horror of her children and those who didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  She wasn’t mean, just oblivious.  And so, sometimes,  we got cranky with her.  Real cranky.

I have never believed it was necessary  to pretend that one who has passed was someone different than who they actually were.  What I’ve learned  though, is that there is so  more to each person than we may see.  And, that with the passage of time, we can let go of what wasn’t perfect and learn to appreciate the good, the quirky  and  the gifts they brought to others we weren’t privy to.  We all touch a lot of people in our lifetimes and no one has visibility of all of it.  Those things are often revealed only with the passage of time.

I’m thankful for the life my mom gave me, for the many things she taught me, for the  sacrifices she made, for the hopes she had for me, for loving me when I wasn’t lovable and for not disowning me when I almost burned down her kitchen.  Who knew you shouldn’t leave baby oil warming on the stove and forget about it?

I’m thankful for the period of time when she constantly sang “I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener” and for the trips to the Sundae Bar at Woody’s Smorgasborg.  I’m grateful for her teaching me to love children, to care for babies and for the many memories that still can make me laugh out loud.  She taught me how to clean a house, to be silly with some regularity and to not take myself too seriously.   Other times she was serious.  When I was six years old and told her I hated someone, she looked me straight in the eye and said,  “you don’t hate anyone.”  She said it with conviction and I never forgot it.

In the eight years since she left us,  I’ve let go of  all my unrealistic expectations of what a mom should be.  I’m a mom myself now and I know that I fall short in many ways.  I hope one day my own daughter will  remember the good, let go of my own imperfections and forgive me where I’ve failed.  I pray for grace as I’ve learned to extend it.

My funny, quirky, unpredictable mom–  I’m thankful for the beautiful life she gave me the day  she brought me into this world and  to have been with her when she left it–on Mother’s Day.

‘Remembering her with great  love and affection today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't Worry…All is Well

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

…Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)