I work because I like to work. Work produces something and leaves me with a sense of accomplishment. When I was a boy, my mother had my brother, sisters, and me clean the house every Saturday. We washed baseboards, scrubbed the tub and sinks, polished furniture, dusted and vacuumed. Usually one room a month would be subjected to washing walls and windows. We were taught what a clean house looked like. And, if we finished by noon, we’d get to do something fun, something simple made fun because it was earned.
Later in the friary, I learned that work was a meditation of sorts. Sweeping stairs with a hand brush and washing floors with a soft, worn, watery rag took on new meaning. The work was not a sacrifice, but a pleasure. We had a chance to do something really well, something simple made pleasurable because it was done well.
The work I learned to do and to like gave me more than a sense of accomplishment, it produced something, too. When my late husband and I gardened on weekends, we would often marvel at how a hour or two made everything in the garden look fresh and new. We’d stand in the shade of a tree and say, “Look! In no time, just a bit of dead-heading, some loosened soil — it’s all fresh and new.” That phenomon also happens in the house. Tidying some magazines and polishing a surface makes everything look better. We’d call it instant serenity.
For the past 20 years I have been working every day on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in my state. This work has given me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It has produced more than 30 programs, fostered a half-dozen agencies, and touched thousands of lives, better for the experiences. Some things that are pretty simple — not easy, but simple — were made fun because I worked with great teams. My work in this field is not done, but my job as founding President and CEO of our agency is coming to an end. The way I made money, pledged my allegiance, is soon over.
But my work? Not so much.
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