An Encouraging Word: Good work is important

BY HOWARD COOP

For most of us, Labor Day is a national holiday toward which we look with anticipation. It gives us a day away from work to mark, in a leisurely way, the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of fall. Indeed, that can be a pleasurable experience, for who of us does not enjoy a pleasant day outside at the end of a long, hot summer before the onset of bad weather?

But Labor Day is much more than a pleasant day of leisure. Since 1894, it has been set aside as a time to give serious thought to the meaning of work and to express appreciation for beneficial work and those who from “the butcher, the baker, (and) the candlestick maker” are engaged in it for our benefit.

It is a fact that not all work is meaningful and beneficial. When it is not beneficial, it can be harmful. David Johnson Maitland said, “Many jobs border upon meaninglessness,” and some jobs are meaningless.  Who wants to toil merely for the sake of toiling even if a paycheck is involved?  Maitland went on to say that “Purposeless work is dreary and destructive.” Fedor Dostoevsky went a step farther.  He said, “If it were desired to reduce man to nothing — to punish him atrociously — it would be necessary to give his work a character of complete uselessness, even to absurdity.”

 However, most work is beneficial, and in everyday life, we rely upon the work of others to provide some of our basic needs. Einar Billing, a Swede of the 19th century, said that beneficial work “contributes to community life, order, peace, and security.” As a result, all of us benefit from it, and life is made better by it. Maitland concluded that, when it is beneficial, “Every man’s labor enriches or improves all other” people. That means that your good work and my good work is important, and it can make a significant difference in the lives of everyone.