it’s my job


    A few weeks back I was on my way home from work when Ginger called to say the main sewer line running from the house to the street was blocked and she had called a plumber, but he had not yet arrived; if I needed to go to the bathroom I should stop somewhere on my way home. I was working nights then, so the plumber showed up a little after eleven and worked until almost two – spending most of the time in the crawl space under our house. Ever since I’ve been thinking about jobs I wouldn’t want to do but I count on others to do so I can live my life. They run the gamut from the plumber under the house to the checker at the grocery store (or most any retail gig, for that matter) to pretty much anything in the accounting field. And that’s just for starters. I dare say most of the jobs that help to provide the goods and services I’m accustomed to having are jobs I wouldn’t enjoy.

    I like planting my vegetable garden, but I wouldn’t want to be one of the migrant workers that are responsible for most of the produce we buy. I wouldn’t want to be a truck driver or a toll taker. I wouldn’t want to work on any kind of assembly line or power plant. I wouldn’t want to be a garbage collector or the person who has to take returns at Lowe’s. I wouldn’t want any kind of job where I had to answer the phone all day, though I’m glad someone is there when I call Mac tech support or Durham One Call. And they’re nice when they talk to me.

    Mac McAnally wrote a song a long time ago called “It’s My Job” that I find myself humming these days.

    In the middle of late last night I was sittin’ on a curb
    I didn’t know what about, but I was feelin’ quite disturbed
    A street sweeper came whistlin’ by, he was bouncin’ every step
    It seemed strange how good he felt, so I asked him while he swept

    He said, “It’s my job to be cleaning up this mess
    And that’s enough reason to go for me
    It’s my job to be better than the rest
    And that makes a day for me.”

    I got an uncle who owns a bank, he’s a self-made millionaire
    He never had anyone to love, never had no one to care
    He always seemed kinda sad to me and I asked him why that was
    And he told me it’s because in my contract there’s this clause

    That says, “It’s my job to be worried half to death
    And that’s the thing people respect in me
    It’s my job but without it I’d be less
    Than what I expect from me.”

    Now I’ve been lazy most all my life writin’ songs and sleepin’ late
    And any manual labor I’ve done was purely by mistake
    If street sweepers can smile then I’ve got no right to feel upset
    But sometimes I still forget
    ‘Til the lights go on and the stage is set
    And the song hits home and you feel that sweat

    It’s my job to be different than the rest
    And that’s enough reason to go for me
    It’s my job to be better than the rest
    And that’s a rough break for me

    It’s my job to be cleaning up this mess
    And that’s enough reason to go for me
    It’s my job to be better than the rest
    And that makes the day for me

    I often forget what an amazing gift it is that I get to choose to do something I love. It’s a gift that I get to choose, period. If I pay attention as I look at those around me, I see a lot of folks who aren’t afforded that chance. I get to talk about calling and purpose and passion when I talk about vocation; not every job holds those kinds of possibilities. I know there are those, like the street sweeper in the song, who take pride in what they do even though their job choices are limited. I also know there is a lot of value in manual labor because I am a manual laborer. And there are lots of things I don’t want to do that I expect to be done so my life can go on.

    This afternoon I bought groceries and the checker and sacker were both gracious and engaging. As I pushed my cart away to head for my car, one of them said, “Thanks for shopping with us today.”

    I think I’m the one who needs to learn to say, “Thank you” much more frequently – like it’s my job.



    1. John Seymour (British writer on self-sufficiency etc) once said something along the lines that no human being should be in the position of having to earn a full-time living as a coal miner. If more people became coal miners but did the work only for a few hours a week, the world would be a happier place and we would have the same amount of coal.

    2. Although I seldom stay in motels/hotels, I have a great deal of respect for people that clean the rooms.

      I still read, and enjoy, your words every day.

      Shalom, peace, la paz – Tom

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