He donned the heavy leather gloves and shoved the basket into the maw of the machine which was belching steam, hissing in dangerous defiance. The parts in the basket needed to be degreased prior to painting, and it was his job to make sure it happened with speedy regularity. In the summertime, it was hot, sweaty, mind-numbing and bone-wearying work. It didn't take me even two weeks to decide that was not how I wanted to earn my living. Before the summer was out, I was working as a counselor at a summer camp, and never looked back.
I had a choice, a gift many never get. History is littered with the corpses of men, women, and children whose entire lives were eked out in conditions of forced labor, and there are countless others whose choices were so constrained that they might as well have been born into slavery. I had a choice. I was born into a time, a place, a family that gave me opportunities and options unavailable to so many. And I have enjoyed strength and health to do my work consistently. I never had to rely on unemployment or extended sick leave. My work didn't break down my body as I've seen happen to friends who spent their working lives in heavy physical labor.
Today I attended Bass Fest, a yearly day of seminars and performances by students and faculty at Fredonia State College. The level of musicianship of even the high school students who competed and performed was staggering, let alone that of the professionals who taught, evaluated, and performed. I can't randomly wiggle my fingers that fast, let alone get them in the right places to make music. After one of the seminars, I was walking with one of the high schoolers. I asked if he planned to go into music professionally, to which he replied affirmatively. "It is a great privilege to make a living doing what you love," I mused. "Too many make a living doing what they must." I hope he took my words to heart.
I am one of the lucky ones. No, I can't make music the way these kids can, but I was privileged to make my living doing what I loved - studying the Scriptures, preaching the Gospel, and seeing people's lives transformed. It wasn't always easy; nothing worthwhile is. But it was a great privilege for which I am grateful. And now I am retired; able to put the work aside for new pursuits. Work is good. We are commanded to give six days per week to it, and once more, I get to choose how my work week is to be invested. The day will come soon enough when my work consists of prayer only; my strength and energy will finally be spent. When that day comes, I hope and trust that the work will continue, for it is one of God's choice blessings for which I give thanks tonight.