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Chapter 16 - Work
A popular view of work is that it is a necessary evil and that good fortune provides a life of ease that is free from work. This pernicious lie has led many to see what they do as valueless and a burden to be discarded at the first opportunity. The idea that work should be avoided harms the one who holds it as well as those who depend on that work being done right. There is value doing a job well both to oneself and others. Regardless if the job is cleaning a toilet, fixing a car, or performing surgery, our work weaves us into relationships with others and becomes part of our identity.
For most of human history children have followed the footsteps of their parents by learning the work their parents did. The Industrial Revolution changed that as labor became a commodity. Due to some egregious examples of the exploitation of children early on, laws were passed that kept children out of the labor market until they were a certain age. As a result, most children have chores like cleaning their room or doing school work that is a poor substitute for real labor.
One thing that work does is bring us in contact with others that may be quite different from us or how we think. Learning to deal with the varied sorts of people that can be encountered has been largely removed from youthful experiences. There are peer encounters, but even that is a distortion as the world consists of various people at various ages as well.
Children observing their parents work would learn how to deal with pushy, lazy, arrogant, annoying, and even irrational people. They would learn how to set boundaries, navigate social waters, and negotiate terms. The whole process of how to become an adult can be learned from parents who are adults. The segregation of parents from children has resulted in a significant delay in developing these skills if they are developed at all.
The factory approach to work often results in people dealing with each other at a minimal level so that when a task is completed, everyone goes their separate ways. Since so much of work today is concluded in isolation (compared to before industrialization), often even work fails to provide the relational learning opportunities that it used to.
Since parents are often prohibited in finding employment for their children, it would be advantageous if churches could fill that role somewhat with perhaps youth guided to work helping the elderly.
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