Many nights I traveled I-95 south in route to my job as a supervisor at a unionized factory. Many nights I wondered what would happen if I just kept driving. Even in my mid-twenties, the practical and responsible side of me prevailed. I always took my exit and I always got the job done one more day. Then another day. And another one after that.
The world (through media, academia, and the oversaturated market of self-help books, for starters) will tell you that you have to make a big splash in this life—that you deserve greatness. That you must find your purpose and fulfill your destiny. The alternative—a quiet life—is distasteful and insignificant. It’s a mark of failure.
But what is success and what is failure, really?
Whether one is a physician, a banker, a Starbucks barista, a teacher, a mother, a cook at McDonalds, a sanitation worker, or a supervisor on a factory floor, there is a job to be done and to be done well. Regardless of the vocation, isn’t it really about doing the work with integrity, skill, and humility? What if we began to measure success by a willing spirit—whatever the task—and maybe even a smile for good measure?
Admittedly, I don’t always have a smile on my face and sometimes I wonder, “What is this life?” Perhaps it’s a struggle we all face as we come to terms with who we are and why we are here. Even when we come to terms with these questions, warring forces—both internal and external—may require us think on our answers time and time again.
As a Christian, I know who I am: I am God’s creation. I know why I am here: to know God and to love and serve others. (I can love and serve others, for example, as an employee, a co-worker, a daughter, a sister, or as a friend to the needy.) These concepts, I realize, are foreign to the world’s standards, particularly the standards for success.
Even if you don’t understand or subscribe to my Christian worldview, consider this: One of my (non-religious) colleagues at the factory would remind the occasional unruly employee that “I-95 runs north and south.” This reminder always created the following perspective: there was a job to be done and it was to be done well…or your skills were no longer needed.
We’re celebrating Labor Day this weekend in the United States. Although today it commonly marks the end of summer, Labor Day was instituted as a national holiday in the late 1800s to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers—at that time, union workers specifically.
Enjoy Labor Day. Then on Tuesday (and every day after that), whatever your vocation happens to be, I hope that you do it gladly and to the best of your ability.
… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands. — 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Image: Microsoft Clipart