Singing the praises of Labor Dazes

Bishop’s Mantle column by Jim Bishop

Like many other people, I don’t have off Monday of Labor Day weekend. It’s been this way for years, but I’m still trying to come to terms with it.

The main problem – it’s such a long journey from Independence Day to my next paid holiday – Thanksgiving. Maybe that’s why I am truly thankful for the day when it arrives, plus the Christmas holidays – my favorite time of year – await, along with leftover turkey and dressing.

I feel a need to pause and give a flick of the Bishop’s mantle to work. What – am I crazy? Probably. But, it sure has to beat the alternatives, except perhaps retirement.

(I’m reminded of the cartoon depicting a guy fishing at a lake. A sticker on the side of his small boat reads, “I’d rather be working”).

People finding their niche and performing the work they do, and doing it well, is what oils the joints of this creaky old world and keep it spinning ’round. What if everyone suddenly decided, “What’s the use? I’m not doing this anymore. Take this job and shove it. I quit.” Daily life as we know it would quickly come to a screeching halt.

Who knows – maybe for a brief moment we might actually slow our hectic pace and savor the present moment. But I’ll warrant we’d quickly panic amid the ensuing chaos as our routines are disrupted, electronic devices stop working and our computer screens give only error messages upon booting up – assuming we still have electricity. We might have to actually resort to face-to-face interchanges instead of sending masses of e-mail messages.

Most of us spend as many waking hours at work as at home, when not engaged in pursuits ranging from entertainment to helping others or on a date with Mr. Sandman. Much of my self-identify and sense of self-worth is tied up in my livelihood. Life’s meaning and sense of purpose is found in part through the work I do.

Most importantly, I believe in what I do at my workplace, that my efforts contribute to the larger purpose of advancing the institutional goals and mission in this particular academic setting of equipping young men and women for a host of vocational pursuits, with a strong sense of service, to make a difference in the world. If I felt otherwise, I would have departed long ago. I doubt if there are many jobs that are hassle-free and don’t include certain aspects that we dread. I won’t cite mine for fear of reprisals.

Every job should include some tasks that are simply fun. Without this aspect, work becomes tedious, repetitive, burdensome. For myself, opportunities for some radio programming, photography and special writing projects help energize and offset the more routine, less stimulating parts of my daily workload.

Work can too easily become all-consuming, occupying too many waking hours, pulling us from family and other relationships. The lines between work and non-work-related tasks become blurred, and it’s hard to keep from thinking about work when doing other things. I try not to do work from home, much too easy with office files readily accessed from my home computer.

So what should we bring to our daily labor? I hope: a strong work ethic, the necessary skills (that we seek to keep honed), loyalty, integrity (what we do when no one is looking over our shoulder), perseverance, a disdain for spreading rumors and gossip and readiness to go the extra mile on occasion – a “workman/woman worthy of his/her hire.”

I feel called to the kind of work I do and am grateful to be able to use my God-given gifts in carrying out various tasks. Receiving frequent affirmation, along with helpful advice and constructive criticism, is the proverbial cream cheese icing on the cake.

When the radio alarm clicks on to WSVA, and another workday is about to unfold, I can respond, “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go” and even “whistle while you work” (maybe not if one is performing brain surgery) or slouch out the door with “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.”

Attitude makes all the difference.

Think positive, be assertive and give your day job everything you’ve got, for the night (shift) is coming.

Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University.



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