My youngest son manages a janitorial crew at the college he attends. It's his college job, and he likes it, enjoying hard work. When he was little and I had big trees to plant, I could pay him 20 dollars a hole, and he would spend the afternoon digging and digging, coming inside in the late afternoon dirty and completely happy. He would rake the entire back hill, piling oak leaves into large piles. He loves to hike, and on hiking trips was always in the front, loving to scout the trail, find the way, clear the path.
He has always liked to pitch in, get the work done, and I think of the Marge Piercy poem "To Be of Use" almost every time I think of my son:
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
So much of what we do is hard to see these days. Type words onto a screen, click a button, and the words appear on the internet, a mysterious place that often disappears and crashes and is taken down, or at least pieces of it. Send an email into the void and hope the void answers back. the work we do is often not evident before us, and I can't help but wonder if that makes us unhappy, not having tangible evidence of our labors. I wonder if that is why writers are nervous about ebooks--the kindle or ereader may be in front of us, but our novel is downloaded and then erased, the hard work disappeared.I appreciate work done well, and like Piercy, appreciate something I can hold--a shoe, a ceramic mug, a chair. We often don't value those who make these useful things, but in their absence, we mourn the things not done. Lately, I've been paying attention to work that I can see, looking for competence, mastery, and skill, things I overlook, things I certainly need when drinking my coffee and the mug stays intact.This is why, I believe, my son loves his work. There is use and there is beauty in something hard won and evident.Jessica
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org