I think many of us expect to be facing tumultuous times. While I am sure there will be a great deal to say, one message I keep repeating to myself is that I cannot control national or world events. I can pray and do what is within my abilities, but I most effectively have power only over myself, and perhaps influence over those closest to me. I can’t let fears of what I cannot do stop me from doing the things that I can do, such as keeping my own house in order.
In that spirit, I’d like to add a new phrase to the words that I hope you have already banished from your lexicon. One of my husband’s pet peeves is the phrase, “Giving back to society,” when referencing a charitable donation. Giving is wonderful, but giving back implies that you were taking from society all the years you were working hard to earn money. Unless you are a repentant thief, or perhaps a self-serving, venal politician, while you were making your money you were actually contributing to society, not taking from it.. Why should your words suggest that you were involved in a nefarious and immoral activity?
I would like to recommend another sentence to this aggregation of misleading words: “No one ever said on their deathbed, that they wished they had spent more time at the office.” I have seen this phrase, usually in regard to parents being on hand for their children’s activities.
I am a huge advocate of carving out large quantities of family time, of building community relationships and of devoting volunteer time to various causes. Nonetheless, the above sentiment is unadulterated bilge-water.
Let’s try hearing what it sounds like in another iteration: “No one ever said on their deathbed that they wished they had spent more time on the sofa.” If you are a couch potato and lazily sink back into your sofa to watch endless hours of movies, that might be a meaningful sentence. But sitting on your sofa is usually not the goal of the action. I spent many hours on my sofa cuddling babies, reading to toddlers or older children, telephoning elderly relatives, and keeping my finances organized. I clocked many more sofa hours with other necessary and worthwhile activities. I might well wish that I did have more hours to spend on my sofa.
I spend many of my waking hours in the kitchen. Will I, after 120 years*, say that I wish I had spent more time in the kitchen? Not if the focus of my kitchen-time was simply being in a certain room. But will I wish that I had prepared more nutritious meals for my family even if they took a bit more effort? Will I wish that I had prepared more meals than I did for new mothers or families with a hospitalized child? Will I regret not having shared more hours baking with my children and grandchildren? Possibly. Once again, the heart of the matter isn’t the room but what I was doing in it.
Will anyone feel bad that they didn’t spend more time at the office? Doesn’t that depend on what he or she did there? Will someone actually rue the hours he spent keeping a company going during a difficult time, thus allowing three or thirty or three hundred employees to continue supporting their families in an honorable manner? Why would anyone regret office time that provided a product or service that benefited one’s fellow human beings as well as providing food and shelter for his or her own family? I can’t think of any respectable man or woman I know who wishes they lived off charity or taxes forcibly taken from their fellow citizens so that they could diminish their hours at work. If anything, the number of people suffering because they have lost the ability to work this past year, even if they are not struggling financially, should remind us of the centrality of work. The important thing is what is taking place in the office, not the location.
So, yes, it is entirely possible that some of us might wish we had spent more time doing those things that take place on the sofa, in the kitchen, and most definitely at the location of our economic productivity, even if that location is an office.
* See Genesis 6:3 and Deuteronomy 34:7. A Jewish blessing often given on birthdays is “until 120 years.” (and be ready to see the connection between the two verses as we go Scrolling through Scripture.)
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