Monday, July 27, 2020

An Unexpected Gift


Work sometimes has a bad reputation in our world. But there is something worse than work, and that is having no work to do. Even if we don’t need the money, we still need to be productive. At least that is what Drs. Kathryn Rost and G. Richard Smith of the University of Arkansas say. After analyzing the mental health of heart attack survivors, they concluded that one factor which greatly reduced the chances of depression was going back to work.

And why not? For one thing, at work we are often around friends, and people with strong relationships will almost always fare better mentally. For another, we humans need to feel useful, and we are often most productive when we work.

The scholar Arthur Kroeger wrote in Quote magazine (August 1994) that his brother sometimes visited an Anabaptist colony in southern Alberta, Canada. During one visit he asked leaders how they dealt with the problem of misbehavior – when people rebelled against the colony’s strict rules. He was told that these people were first asked to correct their behavior. If they did not respond, they would be given a stern “talking to.”

“But what do you do when all else fails, when somebody stubbornly refuses to behave?” he pressed.

“Ah,” came the reply, “if it comes to that, then we don’t give him anything to do.”

They are given no way to meaningfully contribute to their tight-knit community, nothing productive to do. For this colony, it is an effective behavior modification strategy.

Not having anything to do may work well when we enjoy some time away, but it makes for a poor lifestyle. Industrialist Henry Ford stated, “Work is our sanity, our self-respect, our salvation. So far from being a curse, work is the greatest blessing.” 

When I am unable to participate in some activity during working hours, I often turn it down by saying, “I have to work today.” But that makes working sound like an unwelcome obligation. The truth is, I am grateful I have honest work to do and that I am able to do it. Even a feeling of exhaustion at the end of a busy day can’t mask my satisfaction of having accomplished something useful. My work is an unexpected gift, and in that I am blessed.

Dale Carnegie gives this advice: “Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.” Even if that work is volunteer service, if you believe in what you’re doing, your paycheck will be measured in satisfaction rather than money. And satisfaction is something money just can’t buy. 

--Steve Goodier

Image: flickr.com/Javier Kohen

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