Work is Always Honorable
It’s quite ironic that the news about former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens supposedly disgracing himself by working at Trader Joe’s made national headlines on Labor Day.
Someone chose the very day set aside to honor working people to make a big deal out of an actor supplementing his income by working as a clerk.
When I read further and saw that one reason Owens worked the job was because it provided him the flexibility to make acting auditions, it lowered my opinion of the “job shamer” who snapped his photo.
So did the news the next day that Owens was so upset by the ruckus that he quit Trader Joe’s.
Working for God’s Glory
I recently finished editing teaching material by a retired pastor, in which he talked about how we should work for God’s glory.
To illustrate, he mentioned a column by Michelle Singletary. In it, Singletary wrote about how her grandmother emptied bedpans, changed sheets, and transported patients as a nursing assistant in Baltimore for 25 years.
One day, Singletary made the mistake of asking her grandmother if she ever wished she had a “better job.”
“What’s wrong with what I do?” the older woman replied. “Girl, there’s nothing wrong with good, honest work. Emptying bedpans puts food on our table and that makes it a good job.”
I would offer the same advice to the person who snapped the photo of Owens. as if somehow he had lowered himself by working as a clerk. Work is always honorable.
Staving off Disaster
I learned this lesson firsthand 30 years ago, after the stock market crash of 1987 wiped out nearly all my business—working primarily with small, publicly-held companies—in a few months.
In the aftermath, I juggled so much I thought about trying out for the circus.
Finally, three months behind on my office rent, I conceded the obvious and closed it down to work out of our home.
About that time, I ran into a friend who managed a delivery service. He needed a part-time driver in our city.
Me? A delivery driver? Wondering how that would mesh with trying to establish my new endeavor as a freelance writer, I asked four friends what they thought about the idea.
Each one had this kind of reaction: “Nothing wrong with work.”
Playing the Great Man
Even after I drove to my friend’s office for a day-long application and training process, I struggled with the idea of becoming a “lowly” delivery driver.
That is, until I took a lunch break. I had taken my Bible along with me, and as I munched I turned to Proverbs to read that date’s entry.
In this case, the Revised Standard Version I was carrying that day has the perfect phrasing for Proverbs 12:9: “Better is a man of humble standing who works for himself than one who plays the great man but lacks bread.”
Wham! Who was I to be complaining about driving a truck when I indeed lacked bread?
From that point on, I never minded the job, even though I preferred to be writing for a living.
For one three-month spell, I worked fulltime when another driver broke his back. During those three months, the account that had helped launch my freelancing career unexpectedly curtailed assignments. The temporary fulltime gig helped bridge the gap.
I worked as a driver for 18 months before the company laid off everyone in our district. I didn’t mind going back to my chosen occupation, but I’ve never regretted that experience.
It showed me there isn’t a particular kind of work that is more prestigious than another. Owens should be applauded for recognizing that.