Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The key to making all tasks meaningful

I would love to say that my days are filled with exciting, important tasks that have a lasting impact on society and the world at large. That I could point to everything I’d done at the end of each day and say, “See? Look at all I have accomplished! Aren’t you so glad I was here?!”

Unfortunately, I find that at the end of most days, there is no tangible evidence that I have done anything at all with my day.

If I clean the entire house, top to bottom, while the kids are at school, it is destroyed again by bedtime. If I make a beautiful meal, it’s scarfed down instantly or, worse, thrown away (those ungrateful brats!). New dirty laundry appears faster than I can carry the clean laundry back upstairs, clean toilets last as long as the time it takes my boys to drink a glass of water, an hour spent reading to my children is forgotten the instant I need to make just one phone call, …do I need to go on?

Since the effect of everything I do seems so fleeting and unnoticed, it’s tempting to either stop doing it altogether (*note: don’t try this- it actually does get worse if you ignore it…I tried), or just resign yourself to never making an impact on the world past what you can barely remember yourself.

But I think I may have found a cure. A single trick that will make anything and everything we do during our day have meaning, impact, and joy. A single act that will keep every minute of our day unwasted.

Before beginning any task, I have started to ask myself the question, “Is there any way I could be helping someone, loving someone, while I’m doing this?” And the answer is almost always “yes.”

I’m learning that I don’t have to ignore my mundane, but necessary, routine…or complete it…in order to get around to the “important stuff” that actually lasts. They can be done at the same time.

Here are some of the questions I’ve asked myself this week:
While I’m cooking dinner for my family, could I make some extra to freeze for a future sick neighbor?
-Could I walk my child to school instead of drive in order to love the Earth?

-Could I get my exercise today by mowing and weeding my elderly neighbor’s lawn instead of just going for that run?

-When I clean the house today, could I pick all of the areas my husband most cares about instead of just the ones that drive me crazy?

-While waiting for my son to get out of baseball practice, could I write a quick note to my aunt?

-As long as I’m playing with my own child, could I call my neighbor and offer to watch her child, too?

-Can I ask my daughter to help me fold laundry so I can find out what’s bothering her today?

-Could I teach my son how to cook this meal as I’m doing it?

-Can I remember, and write down, what went wrong with this procedure so that I can help others avoid it in the future?

-As I’m waiting in this long line, could I cheer someone up?

If I can do this throughout my day, every day, then nothing I ever do will be meaningless or wasted. There still may be nothing tangible to "show" for my day, but hopefully there will at least be something at the end of it all to show for my life.



Linda from Georgia said...

Super great article. Good thing for all of us to remember. I can't think of a single redeeming thing to do while cleaning the bathroom (my hated job)so will use that time to pray for those I know going through debilitating illness. They wish they could be strong enough to clean a toilet.

Anonymous said...

beautifully written - thanks for this.

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