There is Virtue in Work

Some significant people in my life have taught me that work itself is a virtue – not a means to and end, but something to be enjoyed, valued and respected.  As you can see from the images on this site, I’m drawn to the water, to old wooden boats; and to craftspeople that carry on traditions which technology and other factors in our computer aged world would otherwise dispense with.

As a young man, my father brought me to work with him driving a truck and carrying bundles of commercial laundry.  It was always an exhausting experience.  I didn’t like it.  He knew that of course, and admonished me to find some vocation in life I would enjoy.  He explained that this was the only way one could avoid “work” as he knew it.  He extolled the benefits of education, and nudged me toward law, although he knew I liked working with my hands.

When I was not in school, I spent summer months working for a master carpenter.  He was a perfectionist.  The work he did was incredible, and clients were beyond happy with his results.  I thought to myself, “I want to be able to make things like him which other people will appreciate.”  He took pride in standing back and saying, “I built that.”  From him, I learned that work could produce a product, which others could appreciate, and I learned the joys of woodworking.

Years later, I find myself practicing law.  It’s a difficult vocation when you think about it.  My responsibility is to immerse myself in the significant problems of other people.  I must find a way to help extract them from their problem safely.  There is stress to be sure.  But each case and each client presents a special challenge I can enjoy.  So it’s not so much “work” as it is an enjoyable challenge.  And like the master carpenter, I know that my clients appreciate my work, my abilities, and their outcomes.

In my spare time, I enjoy working with my hands, building small wooden boats.  I’ve taken classes and watched the old timers build them from scratch, and I’ve tried to mimic their talents with mixed success.  I’ve seen the joy their “work” brings to them.  I recently asked a group of them how long it would take me to build a 14 foot “Melonseed Skiff”.  One of them said, “If you have to ask – you’re missing the point.  Enjoy every minute you put into it.”

He’s so right.