We work to become, not to acquire. –Elbert Hubbard
I’ve been pondering the concept of “work” quite a bit lately. What exactly is work and what does it mean? When most of us think of work, we think of exchanging our labor for money. Since the basic focus of society is monetary acquisition in order to finance our survival, it’s no wonder we disproportionately think of work this way. On one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes, one of Lucy’s snooty lady’s club colleagues asks Ricky why he works as a bandleader and he replies, “My family has developed a bad habit, we like to eat!” I love this line!!! I too have developed that habit and I’m sure you have as well.
Yes, it’s a given we all have to do some work for money, but what about work that pays us in non-monetary ways but is equally as valid? There are many kinds of work that add meaning and purpose to our lives and benefit our families and communities. These types of work should be celebrated and seen as valuable in the same way as work that adds to an individual or company’s bottom line. Below are some examples of work that may not pay us anything but the outcomes are priceless.
Volunteer Work– Most of us has volunteered at some point in our lives. Volunteering has a high level of satisfaction because you know you are working for a cause higher than yourself and more importantly you choose to be there. I volunteer for a local animal organization and I always feel energized and positive when I help out. It’s a great feeling to know I’m making a difference. Volunteering is also a good way to meet others with like-minded interests. You can socialize and help out at the same time. What could be more fulfilling than that? Volunteering is a win/win all the way around!
Working in the Home: I have a name for those who work in the home –a home arts practitioner. What in the world is a home arts practitioner you might ask? It’s someone who runs a home. My friend Susan coined this phrase and I find it most apropos! Managing a home is an art not to mentions lots of hard work. Those who practice this thankless line of work receive very little kudos from society but the work is no less important. Now that I’m unemployed, I work a great deal in the home. I’m in charge of making sure the grocery shopping is done, errands are run, the house is clean, bills are paid, and any other home projects that may come up. I’m also in charge of making sure we spend as little money as possible and what we do spend is a good bang for our buck! Our lives are less chaotic now that we have one person running the household and one person working outside the home. We may have less money but in many ways our quality of life is better.
Hobbies: This category can include interests that run the gamut from needlepoint to running marathons. Our special interests help us develop new skill sets as well as learn patience and perseverance. Hobbies also give us a break from the mundane and help us have fun. My hobby/art/exercise all rolled into one is yoga. I’ve been practicing for over 15 years and it never fails to keep me engaged. There is always something physical or spiritual to explore in my yoga practice. Yoga requires a great deal of work but it’s well worth it. It helps center me in the present and makes me more accepting of the difficulties life brings my way.
Activism: Activism can bring about social, economic, and political change. An activist’s work can include myriad forms of work such as marching in the streets, letter writing, boycotts, or political campaigning just to name a few. As a woman I consider activism important work. Had it not been for those brave women who came before me, I might still be considered someone’s property! I’m active in many causes-one in particular is being involved in the Simple Living Movement. By living as simply and purposefully as possible, I safely and legally make my point about excessive consumerism which can lead to environmental harm. Unchecked consumerism is not sustainable and I’m doing my part by curving mine as much as possible.
Educating ourselves: Educating ourselves is a smart investment. There is always something new to learn or research. Learning new things makes us smarter and more aware of the world outside our own. Right now, I’m spending time educating myself on our country’s banking system. Talk about an eye-opener! I also educate myself on ways to make smart spending choices so our money goes as far as possible and we support businesses in sync with our values.
Helping out a neighbor or animal: Every day across the globe someone checks in on an elderly neighbor or drives a disabled person to the doctor. A stray animal shows up on someone’s door and some dear soul takes them in or helps them find a home. Numerous people the world over do the important work each and every day of helping another being out. They get paid nothing for it but their work makes a huge difference. I feed several feral cats in our neighborhood and I help out my neighbors when they need something and they do the same for me.
There are many types of work that don’t bring in money but add to the quality of our lives. I’m not one of those people content to sit around doing nothing. I like being busy and I like working, especially when what I’m doing gives me a sense of accomplishment and achievement. What kind of work do you like?