The Dignity of Boring Work


By Emily Rogers

Having a day off from school for a snow day was the best as a student. Now, as a young adult, a snow day still involves aspects of work on the home front.  Although I do spend some of the day resting and relaxing, the majority of it is spent catching up on work, cleaning the house, writing belated pen-pal letters, and... shoveling.  My driveway only looks gargantuan when clutching a snow shovel.

Many thoughts were being tossed around in my head as I was tossing snow toward the edges of the driveway in December.  I began trying to convince myself that this shoveling wouldn’t just be a good workout but also virtue-building.  At that moment, I saw two blobs of coveralls wobbling my way.  Two of my neighbors were scooting their way up the road to a friend’s house for a snowball fight.  As they passed, one waved and said, “Happy snow day!”  I wedged my shovel into a bank nearby and looked around.  Yes, this IS a happy snow day!  This is the first time that my newest dog, who is from the Carolina’s, has romped in snow. This is an invitation to enjoy a beer while reading by the fireplace tonight.  This is an opportunity to take pride in my work.

Working with dignity is not always easy, but it is integral to being a good steward of creation.  Sure, there is always going to be a chore, like monotonously shoveling snow, that just downright stinks.  I like to remember, though, that donkey poo stank for Jesus too.  In other words, all humans, even our incarnate Savior, perform difficult tasks for the common good which test our dignity.  Yet, we are called to do our best in all that we do, including the most menial of chores. 

Blessed John Paul II wrote in Laborem Exercens: On Human Work,

Work is a good thing for man- a good thing for his humanity- because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being.

Because many individuals tend to prefer risky shortcuts and disregard the quality of outcomes as long as a paycheck comes, working with dignity has become uncommon.  To see a person taking pride in his work is unfamiliar, and what a shame that is to recognize.  Jacques Philippe writes in Interior Freedom, "Even when what we're doing is genuinely trifling, it's a mistake to rush through it as though we felt we were wasting our time. If something, no matter how ordinary, needs to be done and is part of our lives, it's worth doing for its own sake, and worth putting our hearts into."

Therefore, I heed the opportunity to transform nature and achieve fulfillment in all forms of labor.  I challenge myself, and you, to break the mold of mediocrity and to keep shoveling with pride and purpose.  It is always worth it.