Monday, January 16, 2012

Meaningful Work

Full moon over Westbrook's

I've known many people who were unhappy because their work was not meaningful - maybe that was more common in the 1960's and 70's.  But I've noticed that most of the work in this world is very indirectly related to reality, like doing the quality control on bearings or heck, underwear elastic.  I myself had jobs I thought were unimportant and meaningless.  One was being secretary to a group of engineers who kept the calenders running at Firestone.  So, Firestone made tires, they are made with calenders, who cared?  Now I see it better - if you can be involved in the making of a good product that's needed, if you can bring a pleasant attitude to that, it's not meaningless just because your own work is very indirect (typing letters).

Full moon, impressionistic rendering
Many people in the low-wage jobs in the fast-food industry resent their jobs and show it.  But at the White Castle we like to frequent, there is a woman at the drive-through window who is convincingly cheerful and glad to help you.  We look forward to seeing her.

This morning I called my doctor's office to get an appointment about this painful rash.  When I told the receptionist I thought I had shingles, she said "Oh, you poor dear."  And you know, I felt a little warmer: somebody knew what it's like.  I believe there are few jobs in which you don't have the opportunity to be kind, helpful, even compassionate.  A friendly face, a smile - these things are meaningful in this suffering world, and probably more important than you think.


  1. Jeanne, I've always had the WORST attitude about EVERY job I had. So much so, in fact, that when I was the receptionist at a cocoa factory office, my Mom commented many times that I hadn't complained NEARLY as much at this job as at my others, so I must not mind it! She seemed relieved. Ha ha.

    Anyhoo, even at the cocoa factory, I would lament that it wasn't an "important" job, or an important place. Is it essential that Kraft gets its black cocoa powder for Oreo cookies, I lamented??? NO, it was not.

    However, you just put things in the nicest light: if it makes someone at all happy, then it's worthwhile. My kids love the rare treat of Oreos. Someone else must too. Thanks Jeanne, I love the new perspective.

  2. Hi Jeanne,

    I think some people (myself included) used to imagine ourselves on a path going upward--to jobs with more prestige, importance, and creativity. That isn't always the case. I have often felt like I'm in stasis. But the reality is just as you say: our jobs are what we make of them. Thank you for a very thoughtful post.