One of the reasons I wanted to quit my job last year was to scratch this mad itch to do something truly, deeply useful in the world. On an almost-daily basis, I would have to remind myself that I was, in some small way, making a difference at my post in the marketing department of an educational travel company.
But it didn’t matter; I knew I could do much more.
I thought that “going freelance” would make it super-easy to integrate meaningful work into my life. In fact, it’s been a much bigger challenge than I thought. (On top of running my own business and trying to keep myself in the black, I have to set aside time for pro-bono work? And in a new city, no less …!)
But recently, after months of bugging the central office of Habitat for Humanity here in Atlanta, I finally found a way to support their international affiliate in Sofia, Bulgaria. I am totally thrilled and look forward to diving into the project … and I hope to visit their work site personally sometime this year!
A friend of mine is passionate about providing care for the overwhelmingly large aging population and has made that her life’s work. After we talked about the topic of meaningful work over the holidays, she sent me a terrific poem by Marge Piercy:
“The people I love 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.
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 amorphas 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.
My friend is an inspiration, and I can’t wait to start getting muddy.