While we are still in the shadow of Labor Day, we probably notice that we are paying more attention to work at this particular time, than we do at other times of the year. It’s not that we disregard work throughout the rest of the year—an almost impossible thing to do, unless we are retired—but we consider it in other terms, that is, more in terms of scheduling and programming than in terms of appreciation or reflection.
A significant question for us, when we have the time, is to ask ourselves: do I love to work, or do I work to love, that is, to show my commitment and dedication to those dependent on me? That is, am I really fond of my employment, enjoying it, looking forward to every Monday of the week, so that I can get back to my workplace and my associates there? Am I glad when vacation time is over, allowing me to return where I really find my fulfillment and satisfaction—in the office, factory, classroom, department, counter or desk? Is it because of that paycheck that I can regularly pocket or bank, that enables me to purchase what I have set my heart on, or retire a debt hanging over my head? These all seem to be worthwhile ambitions that can explain why I love to work. In all these eventualities, work is the consummation of my desires, and the thought of eventual retirement is depressing, so much so that I may look for part-time work when I retire, or rethink my work habitat and develop a hobby, perhaps in the basement workplace, or in the sewing room in the upper floor. Work has been, and remains, the goal of my life, though, with the passage of time, in a different form or pattern. It has come to satisfy my deepest longings.
Or, on the other hand, do I work to love, that is, to express my affection, to show my feelings for significant others in my life, to gain enough collateral to start a family, or to marry the man or woman of my desires, or to support worthy causes and contribute to the success of significant endeavors, or to help my parish, the center of my life, to retire its debt? Has my work-life finally put me in a position to do the things I really love: fish, play bridge or poker, putter in the yard, read, travel? So that, when I judge that I have worked enough, and done the things that I wanted to achieve with the hard-earned money accruing to me from my work, supporting and bonding with family, friends, neighbors, fellow-parishioners, then I can gladly put work behind me, and let the next generation step into my shoes, and free me up to leave the workplace behind and join my fellow-retirees at the club, over a drink where we can swap stories and memories, or on the links, where we can tee off for a round of golf? Here is where the association that work has led me into reach fruition. Work has been a means to this long-awaited end, throughout my life.
So work means different things to different people. Work is like putting food on the table. That is, it can be the centerpiece of my day, placing an appetizing assortment of food on display pleasing to the eye and tasty to the palate, the grand finale of the day. Or, that table of plenty can come as a result of a demanding job that puts money in my pocket or bank account enabling me to meet the needs of those entrusted to my care and concern, about whom I care so much. In this way I show my sense of responsibility for those who are dependent on me.
In either case we can praise God for providing a way in which we can either do what we love to do, or be content He has enabled us to provide for those depending on us. They likely converge, for there is nothing to prevent what we enjoy doing also helping us meet our responsibilities, just as there is a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that the employment consuming my time and energy is helping those who mean so much to me.