By Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach
I don't know about you, but at this time of year I always think of work. It's harvest time. Because of the years I spent in the MidWest, I was around people who were harvesting produce, bringing in the crop for the year. The quirks of nature notwithstanding, they would be reaping what they had sown. The result of their work was visible, and commensurate to the amount of effort and care they had put into it. They also had an ending. The crop that had been planted was now being harvested. Then it would all begin again.
We do not all have work like this.
My musings started the first of October this year, as I volunteered a lot of time working at the church's pumpkin patch, which raises $50,000 each year for local charities. Most of the time I just sold pumpkins, but two Saturdays we unloaded huge trucks of pumpkins hauled in from a Navajo pumpkin farm in another state.
We formed a chain of humans and passed the pumpkins down the line to eventually be arranged on the church lawn.
On one side of me were 2 parolees doing community service time. They talked about how much better this job was than the one they'd done earlier, and how nice it was to be out in the sunshine. Both of them expected to be "out" by Christmas. I didn't ask them what they were "in" for. On the other side of me were teenagers from the youth choir who complained a lot about how hard it was and had to be reminded to pay attention. I'm sure they couldn't imagine working at anything for 8 hours in a row, especially something so, like, boring, dude.
The pumpkins came down the line in various sizes and shapes, shiny and wet, some with dirt on them.
It was very primal.
I wondered if the Navajos on the other end of the process had formed a line to pitch them into the truck. And if they took pride in their work. If they even saw the marvel of the pumpkins any more.
One time there was a middle-aged woman standing next to me. "You're a good worker," she said. "You don't complain." If only she knew how much I was enjoying myself.
"I was raised with the work ethic," I said. It's stood me in good stead. Having been taught that work was work and play was play somehow frees me from the "complaining" side and allows me to enjoy work. Most of the time anyway.
As the pumpkins passed by us we noted you couldn't tell how much one would weigh by looking. There were some surprises. It's the density.
Such different shapes, too. "Squash" someone would yell and down would come a pumpkin that didn't know it was a pumpkin. Sometimes nature errs. What is the line between "pumpkin" and "squash" anyway? One or the other must have been a mutant at some time. How exciting to discover one. There's no such thing as a mistake, I'm reminded.
Twice a "perfect" pumpkin came down the line and work slowed as each person paused to admire it. No one reprimanded, "Move it along." We understood our mutual need to appreciate perfection when it comes our way. Once in a lifetime . twice on the pumpkin line . life is sweet indeed. We have the archetype of the perfect pumpkin, and the perfect woman, and the perfect love affair, and the perfect job. (Hope you've had yours!)
I enjoy that kind of work a lot. Touching things with my hands, physical labor. It's a nice change of pace for me. I work with my head, with people, with ideas, and with computers.
We were a human assembly-line and I thought of the people who do that kind of work for a living. Maybe you do. We were able to talk, and were outside on two beautiful, sunny, breezy days. And it was only for 3 hours. I wondered what it would be like 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Abruptly it was over. "No more," they yelled, and we passed it on down the line. As we workers scattered, I gazed over the sunny scene. The pumpkins, which had grown on the ground were back there, only clean, and arranged orderly by size this time. Ashes to ashes, I thought, to the same place returneth, but then the scene became dynamic. The pumpkins had a lot in store for them. Already some were being used as backdrops for family photographs, while others were being carted off to become a jack-o-lantern, lawn pumpkin, or pumpkin pie.
My job, now completed, was part of a much larger scenario, yet from it I had harvested much.
At Thanksgiving time, a time of harvest and bounty, I invite you to reflect on your work and your life -- the mission and meaning side of it. The planting of the seed part of it. The reaping what you have sown part of it. Have you? Will you?
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