Sometimes my brain rattles on while I’m slapping together sandwiches at work.
“What good is this? What does sandwich making do anyway… There’s a million more influential things I could be doing right now.”
And so it goes. I have had this thought reoccurring for a long period, especially because life has sometimes brought me into jobs that I find menial and insignificant. Where is the good in putting bread, sauce, meat and vegetables together?
Working these jobs tends to drive me crazy. I consider myself a ‘thinker’. There are people who are doers – they like to build things, be it sandwiches, high-rises, houses, furniture, who knows, but they enjoy building things with their hands. I’m not much for “building”, which is odd, considering my favorite toy growing up was Legos.
I will usually think myself into dead ends and then rattle that thought around until my mind becomes fed up with it. Sometimes I’ll just distract myself with something else at work, or sometimes I’ll just try and think of something different altogether.
One thing I’ve begun to attempt is to take a thought and turn it around or otherwise challenge it. Instead of evading the question, “What good is it?” and simply answering negatively because I don’t like the task at hand, I am learning to answer the question as it is asked – “What good is it?”
What good is the work you do? If it certainly isn’t evil, like prostitution, then there must be some good you can find in it, right?
I’m learning to see the good in tasks that feel out right demeaning to me. But there is one good that has stood out over and above all the rest – doing for the sake of the good of others.
I can be selfish in my work – only working for a paycheck. That’s not entirely wrong, but it also strips the work I do of anything positive in itself – the only benefit of my work is what I receive but the work itself does nothing good and reflects nothing good. This eventually will lead you to hate your job. In fact, if you only work for a paycheck, it doesn’t really matter what you do, you will begin to hate whatever work you do. We weren’t made to live as slaves to money.
I’ve begun to think of my work differently – How can my work help people? How can I do my work in such a way that it profits others?
When I think of my job this way, I have learned to enjoy more and more the work I do. This isn’t to say that this is my ideal job and where I think I am doing the best good with what gifts and talents I have. But it is to say that there is value in all work, no matter what you do.
A single sandwich may not seem like a big deal. In fact, boasting about making a quality sandwich might be a joke to a lot of people. I can imagine someone thinking, “It’s just a sandwich dude, it’s not like you’re changing the world…” Try telling that to the Hispanics I work with, who are scraping every spare penny they can so they can provide a better living for their families. Is it just a sandwich then?
A small sandwich may not be a big deal to many people, and it’s not really that huge of a thing to me, but it is still something, and when I hand it to someone, I am saying something about myself. I am saying, “this is something my hands have crafted, it reflects the quality that I put into my work.” Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if its a sandwich or not, what your work does is to reflect who you are and the kind of person you are.
When I think of my work in these terms, it transforms my work. No longer is my work a slave-den that is simply trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity for the lowest-common-denominator (even if that is really what it is). It is transformed into an arena where I can reflect who God has made me and what kind of person I am.
How I assemble a simple sandwich, or package it together says something. Is it just thrown together so that I can be done with it and on to the next one? Is it a mess? Is it stuffed in without regard to anything?
Or is it, within reason, put together attentively, packaged with care and presented in the best quality? Granted, there are times when time is not on your side and this kind of consideration takes a back seat – simply turning out a product is more important that the innerworkings of detail (though this is not always the case – when assembling the Space Shuttle, you best make sure that every little detail is cared for).
This has led me to think about why I do my work in this way. Though I am doing my work for myself, ultimately, I am doing it for others. I am providing something to others that they don’t have. The ultimate issue is, “what is your posture towards other people?” This will have the ultimate outcome on the kind of work you produce. The dollar amount is absolutely irrelevant to the kind of work you should do.
So now, when I look at my workspace, I don’t look at it in terms of, “Well, how much am I getting paid? Okay, now I’ll determine the kind of work I’ll do.” but “How much do I want to help people today? Okay, now I’ll determine the kind of work I’ll do.”
This motivation almost without question makes the most menial job endurable and even enjoyable. Now, instead of having to do such pathetic work to make money, it’s a way that I can provide a moment of happiness and ease for someone, of pleasure and enjoyment, of relaxation. When I do all of my work early, it leaves me time to help my other co-workers. When I do my work well and do it right, other people don’t have to pick up after me. It actually helps them out when I do a good job.
Many people don’t know this. They just work and do their job without any concern for anybody else, only insofar as it affects them. They will be nice when it’s to their benefit. But if it’s not? Then they are a handmaiden to the Devil.
This is one of the “Chief Ends” that I have learned: Work and Live for the good of others.