All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every once in a while I wonder why people do what they do – whether it’s because they have no choice – or what kind of decisions did they take along the way.
Maybe they tried something just for some spare cash and then found themselves twenty years later working in an industry.
What’s the story behind the lady stood outside Marks and Spencers, wrapped up against the cold, shouting “Merry Christmas, Big Issue?”
There’s an election due to take place and one of the parties wants to nationalise certain industries.
When that happens what of the jobs that go extinct – in a nationalised business where there is no market, no negotiation – do certain jobs just disappear?
Are different jobs created as a result?
There is an industry in jobs for people who check things – auditors and inspectors.
Does creating these roles make things better?
People would argue that they do – for example modern health and safety is no doubt much better because of the regime of inspections and punishments that are in place.
Maybe I’m asking the wrong question – or perhaps I’m looking at it the wrong way.
Maybe the point is in the word “worth”.
One kind of worth has to do with money – what is the value of the work?
The other kind of worth has to do with how important or useful or interesting or meaningful it is.
Should this work be done at all?
These are not easy questions to answer.
Is the person sending you marketing mail spamming you or trying to make you aware of a useful product?
Or are they trying to scam you?
And is it ok if that’s the only way they can feed their family in the corner of the world they inhabit?
I suppose you know what work is worth doing when you see what work is being done.
There is dignity in manual labour, dignity in the Big Issue seller – and perhaps much less dignity in the drug pusher and con artist.
For most of us these concerns never really come up.
We do what we do for the reasons we do.
But if it uplifts humanity – yours or that of the people around you – it should be placed in a position of importance.
Because the choice you make of what work you do gives meaning to everything else you do as well.