What Does Honest Labor Produce?

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Honest labor

I asked my father one afternoon, “How did you take care of Oliver for 32 years?”

My brother Oliver was blind. He could not speak. He had no intellect. Oliver was in bed all his life, born with severe brain damage. My father looked at me with simple confidence and said, “Chris, it was not 32 years. Every morning I asked myself, ‘Can I feed Oliver today? Can I bathe Oliver today?’ And the answer was always, ‘Yes, today I can feed and bathe my son.’”

We sometimes look to our future and see one huge burden, or routine. Sometimes we look back and see one long, worn path. But I believe we look at our lives with these attitudes when we are tired, or when we feel defeated. When we are strong and confident, we can easily see a future filled with promise, and a past filled with gratitude.

I worked, for many years, in a large school system and happened to be in the superintendent’s office on his last day of work after a 40-year career. John sat at his desk, signing papers, making decisions for the school, keeping appointments, and then I said, “John, I am amazed. Here you are on your last day, and you are working as hard as you always did, as if this was just another day.”

He looked at me, smiled, took off his glasses, and said, “Chris, we just do what we have to do in life. It’s all about choices. Now let’s get back to work.”

In our dedication to our work, we can find true happiness. Rosie, my babysitter when I was a child, grew hundreds of African violets in her house. Each window had five or six glass shelves. Her sunroom was filled with glass shelves, and each shelf held many, many pots of African violets: pink, purple, blue, white. It took Rosie over an hour a day to just water and prune her little plants. When I was with her on such days, she would say, after her work, “Aren’t they beautiful?”

If we look closely inside the routines of our daily lives, we can find hints of God’s grace. My father loved my brother Oliver. My superintendent loved his work in the school district. Rosie loved her African violets. In the end, what do we have after our honest labor? A son who is fed, students who are well-served, and beautiful flowers.

We can choose to dedicate our lives to holiness. Such a life is a great labor, filled with difficulty and sometimes sorrow, but it is also a life filled with gratitude and promise—one day at a time.

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