I serve as the CEO for The Well, a Tampa based non-profit that is walking with many of Tampa’s most vulnerable neighbors, among whom there are a multitude of homeless and unemployed folks. The reality is that these neighbors, just like the rest of us, have basic needs like food, clothing, etc. While I think everyone might agree that these folks need work, our common framing of work would usually be referring to the responsibility and needed income/assets. I would argue that work, like food and water, is a core need of humanity. Even when there are no job opportunities or employment, you need to work. You need to pick up something heavy, you need to build, create, contribute, and/or put something in order. Also, everywhere you look there is work to be done; A street to clean, a room to pick up, a person to help, etc.
So whether it is a friend who lives on the streets or a guest on my podcast, The Work Ethic, I am trying to remind everyone that work is a gift, and not just something one does for pay. I always ask guests on the podcast about their earliest memories of work, as a concept, as a word, as an action, and the most common response is typically about their first job or the first thing they did to make money. This framing of work is deeply ingrained in us. Usually after getting such a response, I will push back a bit and ask them about earlier experiences. Isn’t there anything you remember working hard at when you were young? An instrument, a piece of art, a game, a sport, a skill? The reality is, almost everybody remembers working hard at some early project or passion. I want to explore these memories because I believe that it is helpful to remember how hard we actually work at non-economic goals such as hobbies, relationships, health, etc. While most of us do not remember back far enough to our earliest days, I think we would find that our core childhood development and lessons emerged from the games we played as children. As Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist known for his work in childhood development, wrote almost 100 years ago, “Play is the work of childhood.” Work, it seems, begins as play and we may find as we explore the topic of work, that in the end, it can become play once again.
This is the real secret of life- To be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now, and instead of calling it work, realize that it is play. - Alan Watts
Until next time, be pedestrian.