One of the things that adds meaning to our lives is doing work that we think is important in some way. Work that helps others, that saves lives, that somehow makes our communities better. That’s one reason I started small businesses when I left the corporate world instead of just retiring to my ranch. I wanted to continue to make a difference in people’s lives.
But many of us are in jobs that we don’t think of as meaningful. They feel enclosing like we are drowning in drudgery. They give us a pay check but little else.
The Shelter in Place order and the COVID-19 outbreak gives us a chance to rethink how we feel about our jobs and find the meaning that was really hiding there all along.
When I worked as a fast-food cook in high school, I never thought it was an important community service. Compared to being a nurse or a lawyer or a cop, it was almost embarrassing. Sure, flipping burgers put a few bucks in my pocket, but it did nothing else to make me feel good about myself.
But look at that job today. The government has literally defined it as essential to the community. Fry cooks and servers turn out to be more important to the world than we—even those of us who have worked as such—ever thought. They feed hungry people. They help keep the cops on the street and the healthcare workers tending the sick.
There are other examples of invisible, under appreciated jobs that are essential to society. Without stockers, grocery store shelves would be barren. Without truck drivers risking their lives to drive through and even into hot spots, there would be nothing for those stockers to put on the shelves. Without warehousers, consolidators, and packagers, those drivers would not be able to deliver our necessities to the stores or directly to our houses. And without factory workers and farmers, there would be nothing to deliver.
But even those without “essential” jobs may be doing important, meaningful work. So, take a minute and look at what you do. I’ll bet in some way, it improves someone’s life somehow.
We have a moment now to think about our lives. Let’s figure out how we make the world a better place. And if it turns out we don’t, let’s figure out how we can.
We are all connected. If we can each improve the life of one person—make one person laugh, make one person smile, or just ease one person’s pain—we are all better for it.
This article appears in the April 2, 2020 Cameron Herald, on page 3.