Jim Bishop: Working on job reflections without belaboring the point

Ah, wherefore didst the summer goeth? I ask my dazed person.

Ich weiss nicht, you may reply, if German is your language of preference. For many, I suspect summer isn’t departing soon enough, given it’s been among the hottest and driest on record.

For the most part, I haven’t minded, since, as noted before, I’m one of those weird persons who think hot weather is cool. I start feeling wistful as soon as the air turns cooler and leaves become tinged with color, meaning that my least favorite season, winter, will again bestow its hoary breath on the Valley landscape.

With the recent return of welcomed moisture, our huge backyard garden, consisting of six Better Boy tomato plants, is producing more luscious fruit. Few gastronomical delights can surpass chomping down rows of Silver Queen sweet corn kernels dripping with real butter supplemented with a side of sliced homegrown tomatoes.

As the late Nathaniel Adams Coles (Nat King Cole) enjoined, “Roll out those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer . . . I wish that summer could always be here. . .”

Well, guess that’s possible, if we all moved to Florida or Arizona or the tropics, but I suspect I’d eventually yearn for the variety that the four seasons affords (apart from the kind of snow shoveling performed repeatedly last winter). I’ll be satisfied for the present to pop Vivaldi or Frankie Valli into the CD player and experience the four seasons vicariously.

The main concern with this particular weekend: for years, I’ve labored on Labor Day because of my workplace situation; it would be disruptive if everything shut down for the day about one week into fall semester classes.

I take some solace in the fact that more people work on Labor Day than have a paid holiday. The hardest part for me is that my schoolteacher spouse and my immediate family members are off and I’m not, making it difficult to do any kind of special activity together before plunging back into our work or school obligations.

In the 44th year of my vocational career, I’ve only worked two places – four years in a writing-editing assignment in Elkhart, Ind., and in my public information officer role in Harrisonburg since the summer of 1971. On occasion I ponder how my life would be different today had I stayed longer at my first “real” job since college graduation. Would I still be at that same place and in what position? How might our family life have unfolded differently?

I often contemplate what it might be like to go to work and dreading another day of “mindless drudgery.” I thank God regularly for the privilege of being in a setting that maximizes my abilities and interests and continues to provide stimulation and satisfaction – not without its challenges and discouragements, mind you – these many years. I’m thankful for the free-lance projects and radio programming that have come along to help energize and round out the more routine daily tasks and demands.

Every job should include at least one activity that is just plain fun, something one looks forward to, that helps let off steam or offset the routine tasks and predictability that most occupations entail (here I conjure up the mud pits with Moses (Charlton Heston) and the children of Israel making bricks for the Egyptians (man, this really sphinx, I can hear them saying). This was pretty much their lot until Pharaoh finally permitted the exodus, then quickly changed his mind when he realized he’d suddenly lost a major supply of cheap labor.

Just as one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, what constitutes work for one person is a stress-relieving, recreational pursuit for another. For me, mowing the yard, working in flower beds, taking photographs or spinning tunes on the air fall into the recreational pursuit category. Writing, filing things, even playing golf (unless it’s miniature golf) for me is just plain hard work.

Sometime this Labor Day weekend, pause and give thanks for the ability to work and, hopefully, find happiness and fulfillment in what you do for a livelihood.

And, taking a cue from the memorable tune in Disney classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” whistle while you work so you don’t become Grumpy.

Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. Contact him at bishopj@emu.edu.

augusta free press news