I recently found this poem by Marge Piercy:
“To Be of Use”
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
We all have those in our lives who are hard workers, dedicated to a cause, goal or even a paycheck and way of life. Work ethic is such an odd characteristic; one child may receive twice as much as the next from the same nature and nurture. It’s hard to come by if it isn’t instinct, and yet it is equally hard to lose for those who are constantly on the go and need to relax. To be the pitcher, crying for water to carry — I like to think the joy I find in working is also spent in fulfilling a greater purpose.
One of the characteristics I admire most about my father is his unwavering work ethic. He has worked hard, long hours his entire life and done so with a smile, knowing his family would benefit from his toil. He’s the type to trim the lawn and wash the cars before the rest of us were out of bed on Saturday morning. Then again, teaching his children that no job was too small was essential. I remember him making me write a thank you letter to my first employer when I had to leave to move away for college and insisting that if they asked me to clean the bathrooms, to do so with a smile. It was important we have the attitude and ability to take out the trash or to greet the most valued customer.
I’m still not fond of the cleaning, but I appreciate what he’s taught me more today than ever before. Being able to bounce between caring for an office, “lunching” with donors, schmoozing at fundraisers and running after the postman with the mail wouldn’t be possible if my dad hadn’t pushed us to work a bit harder. I am truly blessed to have such a great example. (Two, really. My mom was the original domestic engineer.)
I’ve recently been gifted two particularly useful objects. A pincushion ring from glorious Julia, created by Susannah Rodgers.
Nothing like a little useful bling while you sew!
And Amy Butler’s peeps sent over her new software with two dozen new patterns. Oh my goodness, what summer fun this will be. Friends, expect many a crooked seamed purse and pillow. They may not be perfect, but they will be useful.