by Joe Taylor
This past Monday, 1 May, we celebrated Workers’ Day, a public holiday to honour the hardworking individuals who contribute to the progress of our society. This internationally recognised holiday upholds workers’ rights and celebrates labourers and the working class.
The irony of celebrating Workers’ Day in South Africa, when 36% of our adult population is unemployed, is not lost on me. This shocking figure is a grave injustice that calls for immediate action and solutions.
But even those without regular day jobs have essential duties they are doing to care for and provide for themselves and those closest to them.
Workers’ Day allows us to reflect on the place of work in our lives.
The curse of work – responsibility
Responsibility is not a word that generally excites us. It does not spark feelings of joy.
Often, our responsibilities could be more thrilling activities. Instead, our lives are filled with menial work: chores, paying bills and taxes, and lifting children to school. The list is endless.
If we resent these activities, we can quickly begin resenting the people we are doing them for.
For example, if we begrudge changing diapers, we can begin resenting the child whose diaper we are changing; if we get frustrated by listening to our friend complaining about their problems, we can start to be annoyed by our friend; if we hate working at our jobs, we can begin taking that emotion out on those we are working to earn money for – our spouse, children, etc.
The blessing of work – sacred responsibility
But what if we change the way we view our responsibilities? What if, instead of thinking of our duties as something we have to do, we think of them as something we get to do – a sacred opportunity that we have been given to bless those whom we love or whom God has invited us to love?
What if, instead of despising the need to pay our children’s school fees because it leaves us short of money, we are grateful for the sacred responsibility that we have been given to bless our children with access to quality education? What if, instead of getting grumpy when we must do household chores, like mowing the lawn, washing dishes or vacuuming, we are honoured for the sacred responsibility of caring for the things we have been blessed with (things that many others could only ever dream of having).
God, in our responsibilities
St. Ignatius of Loyola believed and taught that God is present and active in all things, places and people. If, like me, you believe this too, we mustn’t see our places of work and toil as places outside of God’s domain but instead as places where God invites us to experience and share the graces present.
When we alter our attitude towards some of the menial tasks that we are required to do regularly, these tasks change from things that we dread doing to things that we get to do to experience God’s presence in our lives and the lives of those around us.
How will you address your responsibilities this week?