June 1, 2022
I got my first job when I was 16. I worked at a bakery/deli making sandwiches, serving customers, washing dishes, and doing other minimum wage-type restaurant work. Since then (for about 30 years), I have rarely had a stretch of time where I did not work. I’ve unloaded trucks, tracked inventory, made concrete roof tiles, been an exterminator, been a salesperson, done ministry work, and about everything else you can think of. At some point along the way I learned an interesting lesson. Mark Twain once said that “If you find a job you enjoy, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” It’s a fun sentiment and a neat idea, but the truth is that there are a ton of jobs out there that have to get done, and the world only needs so many folks to test play video games or play basketball for a living. Work is rarely anything other than work. That is why it is called work and not play. To some degree, the Twain quote is a bit of a “pie in the sky”approach to the world. However, there is a loophole. Generally, at least to some degree, we control our experience of work. The more we complain and look for reasons we despise the work we are doing, the worse our experience of it is. I learned this working in my college cafeteria washing dishes. I hated it, and my attitude was trash. The more I complained, the worse it was. After a year of that job, I worked in a steel processing plant for a summer. I did not enjoy that work. At all. I figured out very quickly that working in a factory was kinda miserable for me. After that experience, I loved washing dishes. I had a great frame of reference for why it was a pretty good bit of work to do, because it wasn’t working in the plant. I even learned to enjoy the job. I can say the same for almost everything else I do. I love writing because it is a creative outlet, though I hated doing it in school. Researching to write sermons is interesting and fun, but research in high school and college was miserable. I love preaching, teaching, and everything else. I wouldn’t say I don’t work, because I love my job, because there are some days it is work. However, in many ways everything I do for work has its own little joys. This includes washing dishes as a substitute lunch lady at the school (I still sorta love dishwashing!) Mostly what makes it good is the attitude I bring to it. When I see it as learning interesting things, helping people deal with their problems, serving the students at our school, sharing the gospel/speaking on God’s behalf, and whatever else, I can hardly believe that I get paid to do it. I mostly feel privileged to help with youth group or write articles for the paper. I am not a masochist. Rather, I love my town and am grateful God has given me a chance to serve here. This is the greatest key to happiness in work. It is not a cure all, mind you. I have had desk jobs that I considered miserable because sitting down all day makes me crazy. Still, a huge difference is made by coming to work and service with an attitude that it is a privilege to serve others and my neighbors. It’s never work if you are doing it because you want to.