There’s a story about three laborers in medieval times that goes like this: A passerby said to the first laborer, “What are you doing there?” He replied, “I’m just stacking up bricks, one at a time. ’Tis hard work doin’ such all day long.” The inquirer asked the second laborer what he was doing. “Oh,” he said, “I’m making a good straight wall for this building we’re puttin’ up.” Upon asking the third laborer the same question, he answered with proud enthusiasm and a genuine sense of purpose, “Why, I’m building a grand cathedral!”
I love this reminder that how we view things affects our motivation and output as we go about achieving our tasks and goals. Many countries have public holidays honoring workers and their contributions. I like to think that what we celebrate is not only the accomplishments of a labor force, but the qualities expressed by such workers – for instance, a willingness to sacrifice for a worthy endeavor, unselfed efforts to achieve a greater good, and a genuine commitment to supporting the stability and advancement of the economy and well-being of a community, a country, and even our global family.
No matter what our daily tasks include, we are all capable of expressing qualities that lead to progress. Dedication, appreciation of good work, intelligence, honesty, respect, and innovation can be seen as coming from a universal source, as attributes of God, who created everyone spiritually to reflect His infinite goodness.
This higher view of work as a spiritual endeavor can inspire our efforts to be confident of good results and enlarge the scope of our contribution. I find a good model for achievement in something Mary Baker Eddy wrote regarding her own experience: “The discoverer of Christian Science finds the path less difficult when she has the high goal always before her thoughts, than when she counts her footsteps in endeavoring to reach it” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 426). She proved the validity of this statement by many extraordinary accomplishments as a healer, teacher, lecturer, church founder, and businesswoman over four and a half decades that spanned the second half of her life, in a time when it was rare to find women in the workforce.
Acknowledging God as our creator and the source of all good enables us to express more fully the qualities of creativity, strength, patience, wisdom, caring, precision, and such – attributes that are productive and bring satisfaction and progress. What we are occupied with accomplishing, when seen from this perspective, provides an opportunity to bring to the table qualities that inspire harmony when interacting with others, evidence God’s love for all, and help fulfill the individual purpose of our lives.
No matter what our job is, this grander view of labor honors God, the source of every right quality and attribute, and can bring a richness to our life and work, impel progress, and make room in our consciousness for a profounder sense of self-worth.