What is meaningful work?

Published 9:36am Friday, December 28, 2012

On a recent Sunday, after lighting the advent candle, the people’s response was “Today we give thanks for all who do work that’s considered the ‘lowest.’ They are often the ones who can tell us about seeing God in the midst of darkness.”

What would the Christmas story be like without the shepherds? And what would it have been like to be a shepherd 2,000 years ago? A shepherd was one of the lowliest jobs available, yet it was one of great importance to the stranded sheep stuck in a steep ravine with predators lurking overhead. It was important for the sheep owner; the rich landowner could not maintain his livestock without a shepherd. And, in spite of the social stigma that came with the job, there must have been considerable job satisfaction for the shepherd each time he saved an animal from certain death from a lurking wolf.

Isn’t it unique that the shepherds were the first to see the star over the stable in Bethlehem? Even if you do not believe in Christmas or anything about the Christmas story, isn’t it unique that the writer chose lowly shepherds as the messengers of great news? Could it be that the shepherds were the only ones not pre-occupied with their own busy schedules and to–do lists that they were the ones who noticed what was happening? And the reward given to them, for simply following an out of place star, was huge. Their lives were given a sense of meaning beyond our comprehension.

We all want our lives to have meaning. We want to make a contribution to the world that has given us love and life. We want to leave the world a better place than we found it. We want to serve, and we all know that we need to slow down.

With the dawn of the industrial revolution jobs were created that made money, but most of those jobs were in a factory that produced products that may or may not have benefited mankind. We work to make money and buy things that we need, or things that make our life easier. The system worked for a while, but now we are seeing the consequences.

Here’s a quote from an article written by climate change activist Kathleen Dean Moore, published in this month’s Sun magazine.

“I think the addiction to consumer goods is a response to the loss of community, self-sufficiency, meaningful work, neighborly love and hope. When these things are taken from us, we look to the cheap fix, which is turning out to be very expensive indeed,” Moore said.

This Christmas try doing it a different way. Beat the eggs with an eggbeater – ask your husband to help and talk while you are working together. Hang the clothes out on the clothesline and enjoy being outside even if it is cold. Sweep the floor with a broom so there is no noise. Teach your grandchildren how to sharpen a pencil with a knife; they have never been taught that they can survive without electricity. Mix the cookie dough by hand (remember to take the butter out of the refrigerator the night before) and rejoice in how many Cuisinart pieces you don’t have to wash. Sit with your children and grandchildren and be with them. Take children for a walk in the woods rather than go shopping. Remember that the most important job, the most meaningful job, that you will ever have is to love and nurture your children and your neighbor; a job that our modern culture deems worthless because it gets no paycheck.

This might mean giving an unemployed local person work too, doing something that needs to be done like raking leaves, cleaning house or fixing the leak in the shed roof, mending a fence or helping haul the junk out of the back pasture. Most of us need help with some odd jobs and could pay $10 or $15 per hour. And there are many people in our area with no work that are eager for work. We can give the gift of meaningful work to someone, and pay. Ask around and try to find these people. They are right here, and they are good people. We simply have to be able to see them, and that means looking with open eyes.

I wonder how much those shepherds got paid for what they saw.

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