Christianity, Emotional Health, Faith, Gardening, Growing Up, Prayer, Recovery, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Work

Somebody please, take out the trash…

I didn’t spend much time on the porch this morning. I headed to the garden instead. A steady breeze blew this morning and I thought I’d take advantage of the cool morning to check on things out there. I have another four weeks of my little IV buddy and the heat is difficult, at best. Why waste such a gorgeous morning, right?

The beans are still putting out and the squash maintain steady production for harvest. The above-average temperatures are already taking their toll, but the garden fights back, refusing to surrender except on its terms. I thank God for its resistance because the ultimate harvest has begun in earnest – homegrown tomatoes. In an age of convenience, fast, and just plain crappy food, homegrown tomatoes probably aren’t a big deal to many younger folks (a brief aside – I asked one of the young guys working on a community garden project with me if he knew where tomatoes come from and he replied, the store?” I felt sad…), but they are to me. I know in my heart the world would be a better place if people would simply eat homegrown tomatoes…

Anyway, I’m back at the desk, perusing the newsfeed, with my mood alternating, as I read the various stories, from happy to sad to “what were they thinking?”. One headline from The Hill caught my eye. It was a report titled “White House Tasks office with taping together papers after Trump rips them up”. I had to read on, although not much surprises me anymore.

Apparently, Trump has an annoying habit (one of many, I might add) of ripping up whatever papers are on his desk regardless of whether they are official papers or not (I’m pretty sure he’s destroying evidence…). Since papers from the Oval Office are supposed to be archived, there are records management staffer who have been tasked with taping together all the little pieces of paper like a jigsaw puzzle, so they can be preserved according to Federal law. It seemed to be just another silly story from a silly place about a silly man, but something caught my eye as I read on.

The article goes on to say that a couple of those staffers were recently fired, one after three decades of service, and they talked to Politico about it. What struck me was the remark one of them, Reginald Young, Jr., made to his Director. He said, “Are you guys serious? We’re making more than $60,000 a year, we need to be doing something far more important things than this. It felt like the lowest form of work you can take on without having to take out the trash cans”.

His statement reflects the root of the problem with common folks and government, and people in general. His attitude of ‘I’m too good for that’ is often one that I’ve had in the past; and if I’m not careful, I can have in the present as well. It relegates people’s worth to some imagined scale of what’s important and what’s not. One of the first questions we ask new acquaintances is often, “So, what do you do?” as if what we do defines who we are. That’s rarely the case. Still, every business has a hierarchy: bosses look down on their employees, employees look down on new hires, and everyone seems to think they are too good to clean up their own messes and leave them for the janitorial staff. And so, it goes…

Fortunately, I had a father who called me on this. Nothing was beneath me. If I signed up for a job, then I needed to do whatever the job required. I wasn’t ‘too good’ to do anything and I sure wasn’t better than anyone else. Every job needed to be done and to be done well. I wish everyone had a dad like him. Maybe we’d find it easier to get along…

I didn’t always listen to Dad.  I spent years imagining new ways to please him and make him proud, even though I didn’t have to. He loved me just the way I was. It didn’t matter what I did for a living because that wasn’t who I was. I was his son and that, my friends, was enough. I remember him telling me over and over, “Son, I don’t care if you want to be a garbage man, be the best garbage man you can be”. It took me many years to find the truth in his wisdom. Simply do my best…

I really began to appreciate my father’s wisdom when I discovered a hidden treasure in my reading several years ago. It was an old French text from the 17th century by a man known as Brother Lawrence. It was called “Practicing the Presence of God”. Brother Lawrence was a lay brother, a monk in a Paris Priory. For fifty years since he said his vows, he worked in the kitchen of the priory and later, repaired sandals. I guess neither job was thought of any more highly then, than it is now. Yet somehow, this simple monk’s life revealed more about the nature of work and our relationship with God, than anything I have read before or since.

Working in the monastery kitchen, Brother Lawrence discovered that “common business”, no matter how mundane or seemingly insignificant to others, was the “medium of God’s love”. Therefore, work became an instrument of worship and relationship with God. Suddenly, washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen wasn’t some lowly job, it was an act of worship and partnership with the Creator. It was done with love and exuded love. Maybe that’s why so many people flocked to this simple monk over the years to seek spiritual advice and comfort.

Just as my Dad used to tell me to strive to do well and give credit where credit is due, I’ve come to value the principles and “Maxims” of Brother Lawrence. I’ve come to see that our work, no matter what it is, is a physical manifestation of God’s love and my relationship with him. If that’s the case, then nothing is ‘beneath me’ and one job is not more valuable than the other. Given that, what right do I have to look down (or up) on another’s work. We’re each a treasured child of the Creator and maybe, just maybe, I should treat folks that way…

I don’t expect attitudes to change in Washington D.C., or Fort Worth, or anywhere else for that matter. CEOs and men in powerful positions will continue to make exorbitant salaries at the expense of the very people who make their lives possible. We’ll still assign value to one’s work and put the somewhere on the ladder and thus, assign their worth. While attitudes may stay the same in general, I’ll pray that mine continuously change so I can see the value and the worth of each of God’s kids I run into every day. If I treat them as one of God’s kids, maybe they’ll treat themselves, and others, the same way. Before you know it, courtesy and respect begin to spread and maybe those White House staffers start taking out the trash because it needs to be taken out. Just sayin’…

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