The worst view I ever had from my assigned office at work was of the building’s designated smoking area. I had the most coveted type of office – a closed-door office, with a window. Except the window faced the smoking area outside the building, with its awning-like protection and clouds of smoke.
The best view I ever had from my assigned office at work was that same office – after smoking was banned entirely from the campus. No more plastic awning. No more clouds of smoke. Just an uninterrupted view of nearby woods.
If someone asked you to describe beauty at your workplace, you would likely think of architectural structures, window views, fountains, waterways, or woods. You might think of people, but today’s cultural and work environments require that great care be taken when talking about people.
I had the good fortune of working on a campus that was also heavily wooded, with walking trails. You could take a hike at lunch and not realize you were in the middle of a busy suburb in a large metropolitan area. A reflecting pool sat in the middle of the office buildings, attracting Canadian geese, ducks, and other wildlife. The grounds-keeping crew kept the landscape flowering and trimmed. It was a beautiful place to work.
It took me a long time to see that work itself contained an inherent beauty and often an elegant beauty.
Like most people, I had too much work to do. Mark Twain once said that it was characteristically American to run a business by trying to get by shorthanded. And when you’re in the throes of a massive project with a looming deadline or even your day-today work, it’s hard to see the beauty. But it’s there, if you look for it.
It might have been easier for me to see the beauty in my work, because I’ve always worked with words. I wrote them, copied them, wrote them for others, spoke them, published them, and recycled them. Some 30 years ago, the idea of beauty in my work struck home when I was part of a “Salt and Light Fellowship,” a group of people organized to help themselves and others find and see the holiness of work. The group centered on the idea that the work we did – no matter what it was – was a calling, as much a calling as the pastorate or the mission field.
It was a startling idea, and not everyone agreed with it. It went against the grain of a widely held Christian idea that pastors and missionaries were called to God’s work, while the rest of us did – something else. But if all work is ordained by God, then work is good.
And it will contain beauty. It may not be as obvious as a wonderful view of woods and quiet reflecting ponds, but it does have an inherent beauty.
From Poetry at Work: “Consider your work itself. What could you call beautiful in the actual work that you do? It may be as simple as the way your hand turns a wheel, the sound of a good speaker making a presentation, how suggestions by a number of people came together into an outstanding idea, how a child suddenly understood something you were trying to teach him, even a song playing over the intercom.”