Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ALL WORK IS HONORABLE

There was a time when I couldn’t say that. “Work” was the “bitter pill” to swallow and in a culture that focuses on weekends, vacations, holidays and retirement, the honorable message is buried. Sure, we’re encouraged to be successful at our careers, work effectively and strive for advancement, but the constant mantra heard is “Thank God it’s Friday” and “I hate Mondays.” Lord knows I’ve said them both for a long time!

A few years ago, I got this crazy notion: why can’t work be enjoyable? I didn’t get a quick response, but I continued asking the question. I remember one afternoon, I had business to handle in the near north area of Chicago’s loop area. Taking a cab over, when I got in the area, I was amazed at the expressions on the people’s faces. Nearly everyone seemed to be relaxed, unhurried, shopping and taking in the sunshine. And hear I was, watching my watch, trying to account for every minute and avoid going over my lunchtime. My impression of these people was they all had money; they had to be “trust fund” babies because they didn’t have my attitude and the rushed, anxious appearance of people just 5 blocks south. But on many occasions, I ran into people like this. Midday, mid-morning, afternoon, there are people out, shopping and some are working, and they look like they don’t have a care in the world. Why couldn’t I have that?

It’s recently that I have come to believe all work is honorable. But the statement begs completion: not all work is appropriate for everyone. A biblical principle spelled out in 1 Corinthians 12: 14, says, “The body is not made up of one part but of many.” It goes on to give the illustration of a foot saying “because I’m not the hand, I’m not part of the body.” So it is with us. We all have roles and a position. Take my word for it, I have tried on many roles and some of them weren’t a good fit. Until recently, I was determined to be a degreed, licensed counselor. I may still counsel, but I can tell you, there is no more honorable task for me than painting and writing. You see I have found a way to live like those people I saw in the near north side of Chicago. It begins with knowing myself and that leads to expending energy appropriately.

Before I get deeply profound, I must say this has been a long journey around a mountain. I’ve known most of my life I should be doing art, but I did everything else. It wasn’t until I faced me, stopped ‘me’ in my tracks and asked, “What are you doing?” I mean it was an honest question with a huge expectation of a response. I came to the conclusion that nothing else for me mattered. I will not stop being a husband, father, brother, minister, teacher or counselor. But nothing else ‘works’ without the center, the critical link for all. Giving in to the “artist’s life” is one of the most significant decisions I’ve made in my life.

Suggestion? Think back to your childhood, when you played in a yard, playground, with friends or alone. Remember the role you thought you were; maybe you were a doctor or dancer or singer. It didn’t matter if you were good or bad at it, it was what you did and who you were. In my opinion, it’s time to let the kid out to play again. Everything else is a misfit; everything else is work without honor. Peace!