One brave soul, a woman I judged to be a little younger than myself, ducked through the front door and shook rain from her hair. Ordering a small mocha with whip, she told me she had dashed over from the nearby telephone store. She would be hanging out at the coffee shop for awhile, she said, because her husband and son had responded to an emergency call from an acquaintance with car trouble and left her to wait here.
As we chatted, I learned the woman worked alongside her husband, a farmer, but hadn’t been on a tractor yet this year because she’d had surgery. She missed being involved in the field work.
The woman took a table by the window. Other folks found their way through puddles to grab coffee in the midst of their Saturday morning errands on their day off work.
Bustling to keep up with the orders, I got to thinking about the woman’s dilemma. What do we turn to when the work we enjoy is taken from us? What gives meaning to our lives and fulfillment at the end of the day. And, if this woman truly misses her work, what satisfaction does she derive from being a farmer’s wife, the driver of a tractor?
On my stack of books-to-be-read this summer is Nancy Nordenson’s “Finding Livelihood” — a book about work. A quick perusal promises thoughtful discussion about the value of one’s work. From the back cover copy:
“What do you want to be when you grow up? The answers were our childhood dreams. The reality of adulthood is that what we are and do now is what we became. ‘Finding Livelihood’ is a book about work for grown-ups. It’s about not just the work we thought we wanted but the work we found and the work that found us. It’s also about the work we have lost.”
The work I’m engaged in during this season of life has been chosen as much for pleasure as financial gain. It truly is part of “what I became” when the work I had done for so long (raising and teaching four sons) ended.
The farm wife’s husband and son found her sitting at the window about an hour later. They joined her at the table with their own hot drinks and a refill for her, and she listened intently while they described the accident that required their help.
Pouring roasted coffee beans into the grinder, I smiled with appreciation for the work that has found me. On a rainy Saturday in the middle of June, where I find myself is, in a small way, the fulfillment of an observation offered by Frederick Buechner and quoted by Nancy in her book:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.”