Saturday, March 27, 2010

Work that's worth doing

Why do we spend so much of our time working?

I've asked myself that question so many times I've lost count.  The most common answer that comes up is "to pay the bills."  But when I look back to when I had my first "job" I didn't have any bills to pay.  I don't think I even knew anybody named Bill.  So, my initial reason for working was for a different reason.

For as long as I can remember my dad has been self-employed.  During my early childhood and grade school years, Dad drove a catering truck in downtown Los Angeles.  It wasn't the big roach coaches that people cook the breakfast sandwiches and cheese burgers and burritos on.  His was more like the mini convenience store on wheels.  Sometimes when I'd have a day off from school I'd go to work with him.  My job was to stand next to his TV-tray table and collect payments from the office workers and warehouse guys for their coffee, donuts, sodas, sandwiches and snacks.  My "salary" arrangement was that I was able to keep whatever money was paid to me.  I made anywhere between $3.20 and about $23.16, depending on how business went on the particular day.  Not a lot, but back then a dollar went a lot further than it does today.  It felt kind of cool, being able to earn my own money, but that wasn't the only reason I wanted to go to work on the catering truck.  My real motivation for taking this job was so I could spend time in the presence of my father.

A few years later, my parents had a carnival supply business, renting equipment and games to schools, churches, whoever.  As my sister explains it, they rented dunk tanks and sold whoopie cushions.  Honest injun, that's what they did.  The way it was set up was everyone who played the games wins a prize.  If they won the game, they won a big prize, usually a stuffed animal of some sort.  If the player had a lack of skill, and it blatantly showed, he got a small, gumball-machine sized prize.  Bummer.  And that's what we called those little prizes -  Bummers.  Well, one of the tasks for dad's business that had to be done on a regular basis was to package these prizes in bags of either 36 or 144 pieces.  Bagging bummers wasn't a glamorous job, but it had to be done.  While there was pay involved (10 cents a bag) there was still a larger motivation.  My father had a task to be done, and I wanted to do my part to help him accomplish his business.

It's been many years since I bagged bummers for my dad.  I've been working full-time for more than  half of my life now.  It seems I know lots of Bill's, and most days I go to my job to earn money so I can pay them.  These Bill guys provide  stuff that is subject to decay or stuff that I can't take with me beyond the grave.  Jesus told his followers, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life" (John 6:27).  Just as I worked for my dad when I was young, the work that is most fulfilling now that I am a grown-up is the work that my Father has for me to do - work that's worth doing.  Work that tells of the love, grace and mercy He extends to me.  One way is to spend time in the presence of my Father, through study of the Bible.  Another task is to use the gift of words and sharing with others, whether it is one-on-one, teaching a group of teenagers at my church, or writing about how God shows his love in every-day life. 

What about you?  What kind of work do you do that is worth doing?

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