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Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
November 8, 1985     Arkansas Catholic
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November 8, 1985

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1985 n Possible FOOD Faith Today Page 3 Bird rises on a group of over tables in a bar in playwright searing play, Cometh." is an old man afraid for death to tap shoulder; Willie Oban, law student, talks career he will have qtlits drinking -- hasn't left the bar house he owns since of his wife Bessie many shapeless men wear, the de- of their shoulders, the on their faces betray that these men have no enthusiasm for Dr. Robert Wicks those men lack "a sense He is director of the in pastoral at Neumann College in With a sense of mission to be ,n- something to put into that is wor- he added in an inter- of "unifying princi- provides a pur- can guide us through derive that sense Work, he said. in American socie- Who quite justifiably expected his congrega- him, insisted on his trade as a tent- he wrote to others: hands as we to do, so that you example to out- Want for nothing" (1 4:11-12). is not just a matter good example." Work' for basic human in- for carrying out God's happiness, for his "want for Paul writes. They must in order to "be" COstelot teaches at St. Plymouth, Mich.) ty, work is paramount. People's identity is tied into what they do," Wicks explained. "When work is meaningful, it contributes to our sense of self-worth and identity. If it isn't, then you have two strikes against you in terms of relating to yourself and to others." "All people have the potential for mission," he said. But the ease with which one develops that sense of mission can depend on what one's work is. "For educators it is easy to have a mission. We draw out the young to understand themselves and the world," Wicks said. He recognizes that some in- dividuals hate their jobs but are locked into them. He is convinced there are ways to find value even in jobs that are boring or unpleasant. "Most jobs have a people ele- ment," he said. Concentrating on people can offer a real opportuni- ty to transform jobs from drudgery into a challenge. For him, the key is "to bring God into the job and to find God there." "Few people meet God dramatically on the road to Damascus," Wicks observed, "but we can meet God in the workplace if we open our eyes." Wicks explained that he en- courages people "to take a few minutes each morning to get their attitude clear." Get up a little earlier, relax with coffee or ()range juice, read a little Scrip- ture, say a prayer. The goal is to see each day as a challenge, to ask: "How can I be open to bring God to my work today," he said. As a psychologist, he tries to develop a sense of inquisitiveness about the people he will meet each day. Wicks emphasized that accep- ting the limitations of one's job doesn't mean denying or av.oiding its negative aspects. This convic- tion was renewed for him by a visit to the Alfred I. Dupont In- stitute, a children's orthopedic hospital in Wilmington, Del. The children's attitude was striking, he said. "They didn't avoid their handicap but they were not trapped in embitterment either." They did what they could: Children in wheelchairs took part in wheelchair races; those bedrid- den wrote with a device that was upside down. For Wicks, it was as if they were saying: "This is my life. I'm not going to waste energy com- plaining or fighting to deny it. I'm going to deal with it directly and make the most of it." (Ms. Bird is associate editor of Faith Today.) "A baby nurse is one that changes diapers and loves 'em dearly. Get up at all hours of the night to give 'em the bottle and change their pants .... I had my own room usually, but I slept in the same room with the baby. 1 would take full charge. It was 24 hours." Ruth Lindstrom became a prac- tical baby-care nurse in 1918, five years after arriving in America from Sweden. She describes her experiences in Studs Terkel's 1972 best seller "Working." "I worked for very wealthy families and for very poor families," she says. "I once worked six weeks without pay. Thcse people lost everything in the Depression and they needed 111C. ' ' At the time Terkel interviewed her, Ms. Lindstrom was nearing 80 and planned never to retire. "What for? As long as I can be useful and needed someplace, I'll work .... When that day comes when I can't work, I'll be a lost soul." Eugene Russell, a professional piano technician who also ap- pears in Terkel's book, says piano tuning is not really business but dedication. Russell delights in good sound and takes pride in his ability to help create it. "There's so much beauty comes out of music. So ...for discussion 1. Sometimes people feel good about the work they do. But other times they may feel frustrated or angry about their work, or bored by it. What should they do then? Do you think it is important for people to find opportunities to talk about their work and how they feel about it? 2. What makes work more than drudgery? Why can work be called a means of expressing one's human dignity? 3. What are some reasons why church leaders are talking about the role and purpose of work in human life? 4. After reading the article by Katharine Bird, what do you think it means to have a sense of mission in life? Is this sense of mission possible for everyone or is it reserved only to a few lucky people? ...for thougP t much beauty comes out of piano tuning." Speaking of work, Russell says: "What it appears to someone else is not too important as long as we do a good job and as long as we do it honestly. It's the real life. If you're using people and you gain by exploitation -- I couldn't live that way." Work is the most ordinary means of earning a living. It orders our daily routines and shapes our lifestyles. But work also holds a deeper, even spiritual, significance. In the first draft of their pro- posed pastoral letter on the American economy, the U.S. bishops addressed "the threefold moral significance" of all work: *First, it "embodies the distinctive human capacity for self-realization and self- expression." *Second, "work is one of the chief ways that human beings seek self-fulfillment" -- the fulfillment of basic material needs and of "the spiritual need to express initiative and creativi- ty." *Finally, "work should enable everyone to make a contribution to the human community to the extent each is able. Work is not only for oneself. It is also for one's family and for others." How do you view the purpose of the work in your life? Can it express or foster human dignity? SECOND HELPINGS "The Mass: Finding Its Meaning for You -- and Getting More Out of It," by Father Gerard Weber. The author tells of a 72-year-old who attended Mass every day for 15 years. When asked why, Sam replied: "You know, everyone's got a job to do. I always believed in doing my job well. Bricklayers lay brick. Painters paint. Catholics go to Mass." Sam felt that "the Mass requires all of us, priest and people, to be ac- tively involved," Father Weber comments. For it is when we gather together at Mass that we hear the call of Jesus "to change our lives and our way of thinking and we have the oppor- tunity to respond to him." We learn how to love and be open to people, how to forgive and to be reconciled with others, how to be generous and to serve others, Father Weber says. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1615 Republic St., Cin- cinnati, Ohio 45210. Paper- back, $4.g5.)