Tag Archives: work

If you follow your star

“I will give you some free advice.”

“Will it cost me anything?”

“You could say it’s priceless. Are you listening?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now… if you trust in yourself…”

“Yes?”

“…and believe in your dreams…”

“Yes?”

“…and follow your star…”

“Yes?”

“…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

– Terry Pratchett (from Discworld’s Wee Free Men)

Have I mentioned that I love Pratchett? The quote above is advice from the ever-practical Miss Tick to apprentice witch Tiffany Aching, who’s also pretty practical and an awesome heroine.

I have nothing against dreams and plans, but advice like “follow your dreams” is pretty useless unless the hearer understands how much work it’s going to take.

Never Be Earlier

“Let not the defeatists tell us it is too late. It will never be earlier.”

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt

{So, our computer is broken again (this time it shut down mid-software update and won’t boot up), and I’m posting from a borrowed computer. Why can’t I do it from work, where I sit at a computer all day? Because they block anything remotely fun-sounding, which definitely includes blogs.

{Anyway, today’s quote doesn’t really relate, but it’s a favorite of mine. I’d call myself a pragmatic optimist (always looking for a workable way to make things better), and I don’t like giving up.}

The Sweetest Things in Life

“The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

{This quote expresses just how I feel today. It’s a beautiful day, and I’m finally starting to get over my cold. It’s the little things that make life good.}

Great & Noble Tasks

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

– Helen Keller

{First, I definitely understand this sentiment. I have read hundreds of adventure stories in my life, and have often imagined myself as a brave heroine helping to overthrow evil , restore the kingdom, and save the world. Then, after I graduated from college, I was troubled for a while that I “wasn’t doing enough.” I was marketing engineering services for my company, spending time with family and friends, taking care of my house, helping out at church, and reading a lot. It didn’t seem nearly important enough compared to all I could have accomplished.

{It seems to me that American children are told that it’s everyone’s responsibility to save the world – or at least a significant portion of the homeless population / abused animals / AIDS victims in their area – through large-scale community action and advocacy. We should each have a great life cause, start a world-changing non-profit organization, and “make the world a better place.”

{I have a few problems with that. 1) Most people need to focus on keeping the world moving. Someone has to grow the crops, fix the cars, and so on. 2) Practically speaking, if we each started an organization, there would be massive overlap and wasted effort. Some people are entrepreneurs and organization-starters, and some of us are worker bees who make excellent low-level volunteers. 3) Most significantly, I don’t see a general biblical call for all of us to drop everything and go save the world.

{God tells us to love the people around us – to care for our families and friends, to work hard for our employers, to pray for our nations, to care for the widows and orphans around us, and to work against injustice and oppression. Some people are called to do that nationally or internationally (and good for them), but most of us need to do it locally. And because we don’t always see the big picture, and because our lives are busy, we help in a scatter-shot way that notices the exceptions and the people who fall through the cracks, and can adapt how we help to fit the situation – without having to fill out forms or follow policies like large groups have to do.

{In conclusion, I agree with Keller that, for many of us, our job is to do the small, everyday things (answering phones, installing carpet, changing diapers) as if they were great and noble. Because they are. They are important to the people we’re serving, and to the people we love. And I can’t imagine anything more noble than serving the people you love and the other needy people you meet every day.}

The evil in the fields that we know

The following is from Book V of “The Lord of the Rings” series (which is actually the second half of “The Return of the King”), chapter 9: The Last Debate. In this scene (which has been edited for length), the combined armies have won their great battle to defend Gondor, but Sauron and the ring still exist. This quote begins with Gandalf talking about their options.

“If it is destroyed, then he will fall; and his fall will be so low that none forsee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of his strength, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.

“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

“This, then is my counsel. We have not the Ring; without it we cannot by force defeat his force.  But we must at all costs keep his Eye from his true peril. We cannot achieve victory by arms, but by arms we can give the Ring-bearer his only chance, frail though it be.

“We must make ourselves the bait, though his jaws should close on us. We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless – as we surely shall, if we sit here – and know as we die that no new age shall be.”

Two things in this passage stand out to me: 1) The courage to walk into almost-certain death for the people you are helping, most of whom are strangers. 2) The understanding that this brave act won’t even fix everything, but it’s a step in the right direction, so it’s what you have to do.

About the first, it’s unlikely that I’ll have a chance to sacrifice my life to save strangers, bit I do have daily opportunities to sacrifice my comfort and time to love other people.

I especially love the second idea. I need to be constantly reminded that I can’t do everything – house every hungry orphan, heal every hurting friend – and that’s alright. It’s not my job to save the world; God has/is doing that. My job is to tend the field I’m given. Maybe that will involve non-profit organizations and political office, but maybe it will just involve a few kids to raise, a circle of broken friends to love, and congregation where I can serve. Maybe my job in life won’t seem “important” to most people, but that’s not my concern. I have work to do.

For the joy of the working

When Earth’s Last Picture Is Painted

When Earth’s last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it — lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew!

And those that were good shall be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets’ hair;
They shall find real saints to draw from — Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

And only The Master shall praise us, and only The Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!

– Rudyard Kipling

One of the things I’m looking forward to the most in heaven is doing and enjoying good things perfectly. Loving to sing without becoming vain about my voice, loving someone else’s skill without becoming jealous of it, loving people without become possessive of them. That’s what this poem reminds me of.

This was painted by my father.

Specialization Is for Insects

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
– Robert A. Heinlein

{I just found this quote today, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Any thoughts?}

You Can Do Something

“You can’t do everything at once, but you can do something at once.”
– Calvin Coolidge

{I can be a procrastinator, and I’ve lately discovered that I do it mostly when I get overwhelmed. There are simply too many things to do (so it seems), so I just don’t do any of them. But Mr. Coolidge is very right; anything is better than nothing.}