Every day for several years my eyes would pass over a sign posted in the classroom where I taught English: "Smile! Attitude is Everything." My feelings about that sign would vary from inspiration to cynicism, depending on how the school day was going. I became so accustomed to seeing these words on the wall that I eventually became immune to them, or so I thought. Somewhere, on a wall of an empty classroom deep in my brain that sign is still posted, with somebody's chewed gum stuck under the word "Smile!"
Some writers of the Bible suggest that we do our work with an attitude of joy. That means, not only do we have to smile, but we have to actually be filled with gladness...to teach...to dig ditches...to answer phones...(insert your job here).
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." [Galatians 5:23, 24].
Excuse me, what? Even today? I'm at home folding boxer shorts while listening to the sound of three pairs of bare feet barreling around my dining room table. Meanwhile, I'm trying to cook dinner, help with homework, give baths, clean off the table, iron shirts, etc. I have to smile and do these mundane, never-ending chores with joy?I'm wondering how I can pull off being joyful when I don't feel joyful.
Then my daughter enters the laundry room.
"Hi princess." I say, opening the dryer.
"Oh, I can help you with that Mama. Wow! There sure are a lot of clothes in here Mama," she says, pulling my soggy pile from the washer. "Oh, I like your underoos Mama. They are fantastically stun-ting."
I laugh. Hard. I follow her upstairs with a basket of folded laundry to find more joy. In her bedroom baby Bigfoot is seated at her princess tea table, eating a plastic cookie.
"Sit down with us Mama. It's celebration time. It's sunny today! Have some cake." The princess takes a fake bite. "Mmm! De-fectable!"
I laugh again. Harder. So I sit down and have a plastic dessert. The snack is right in keeping with my diet, actually.
Then I go back to my work: changing bedsheets. The princess follows, helping pull the comforter off my bed. She whistles while she works, "just like Snow White, Mama." We sing the Disney songs together; they are embedded in my brain.
"Mama, you know all the words," says the princess.
It's true, I remember the words, but forgot how to apply them. This little child reminds me.
Smile! Attitude is Everything.
Why should we be joyful in our work? What change does it make? I can only answer that question from where I'm standing. Today the princess got her first report card from pre-school. This is what her teacher wrote:
"(The princess) is a leader through example! I often would sit a more active, less focused child next to her at group time and she, just by listening and doing what is right would sometimes help the child to sit and focus in as well."
It looks like the princess has the same effect on people at school as she does on her mom. I try to notice and participate in my children's joyfulness. I'm the first to admit that this effort to be joyful is half-baked on my part. Can you imagine what my children would learn from me if I applied myself harder at being joyful in my work, and taught them to retain that joy in adulthood? Maybe the attitude of joyfulness in work has nothing to do with changing me, but everything to do with loving others. Imagine what would happen if you shared an attitude of joy with the people you come in contact with through your work: the boss, co-workers, students, customers, children. There's no telling how far that love might reach.