Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Joy To The Work!

“Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” -St. Thomas Aquinas

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 dig 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 Mama."

"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.


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

The point I got from your story is that joy is contagious! Your kids' innocent joy helped you feel more joyful, and you kept it going.

jen said...

That comment from the teacher gave me chills. What a blessing!!! How powerful a child can be in the life of others. And, Loren, this line made me laugh - hard "The snack is right in keeping with my diet, actually."

Loren Christie said...

Elizabeth, Thank you for helping me tune-up the end of this essay. Jen, thanks for the comment! I really don't diet, I just excercise. :)

Sarah said...

Great post and blog! It is so very true that we really should try to find joy in our work and lives. Though they may wear us down, at least we should remember that not everybody is blessed with what we have.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Grumpiness has that spiraling effect on people too and must be counteracted with people filled with joy! Dieting is very bad for women's bodies and psyches as well. Rubber cookies are even worse and probably will make you grumpy. Exercise is very good all-around and also makes you feel more joyful.

Loren Christie said...

Pure chocolate is edible joy.

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Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


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