August 31, 2013

MISSION MATTERS: For Your To-Do List, Do Good Work

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On Labor Day, dedicated to the social and economic achievements of the American worker, we celebrate the hard work of a history of workers across the United States, and take a rest to honor them and their gift to us. For our SLU community, we have the opportunity to reflect on the type of work we do, and how we're doing it. Sure, the barbecues are nice, too! But let us, for a moment, reflect on the work we do as part of a community whose mission is the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God, and for the service of humanity.

The first couple of weeks of the new semester are finished, and our campus has, for the most part, completed our welcoming events. Students, new and old, adjust to new classes, and faculty and staff adjust their schedules, and our community settles into the routine of campus life. We've crossed off the first week of classes — "Check!" and we can feel a little more comfortable as our routines are set in place. Still, the to-do lists seem to grow and grow, as students find new clubs and start challenging classes, and faculty and staff schedule meetings and create mentorships, and everyone tries to balance everything in between.

As a student, it is easy to get caught up in opening act of the start of the semester. Truthfully, the first few weeks, with new faces and activities, and the excitement of a new start, is one of my favorite times on campus. We are steeped in classwork, meetings, work, studying, and sometimes students remember that they now have to feed themselves again. There is that mix of part joy and part stress as another semester begins, with feelings of trepidation for a hard class and excitement as we greet new challenges for the fall. And while the first week was full of exclamations of "I've missed you!" or "It's nice to meet you!," the new-car smell of the school semester hasn't really worn off yet. We create a list of things to do. Some things are already checked off. Fall Welcome? Check. First week of classes? Check. One extra-curricular ... or five? Check. To-do's fill our lives with work that we hopefully find meaningful and fulfilling, giving us the chance to complete tasks, but to also help us settle into the start of a new semester.

As we celebrate the years of hard work by the millions of workers across the United States on Labor Day, we can also challenge ourselves to do good work in the service of our brothers and sisters on our campus and in our communities. We can be inspired by all the newness of starting a semester - new faces, classes, new challenges, new things to begin, new things to finish.

We can reach outside the bounds of the classroom and into the world, challenging ourselves to work for something that calls our hearts and ignites our spirit. American author Wendell Berry proclaims that "Good human work honors God's work," calling us to do good work, to find something that brings life to us and to others! Then we are able to honor God, to serve our community and to grow in faith with each other.

The great thing about placing good work on your to-do list is that God's work cannot be crossed off as easily as a chemistry test. Our work as brothers and sisters is not so easily eliminated. Our Mission ... for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity, reminds us of our goal, our purpose. Regardless of how much we do or think we do, there is always more good work to do. So, go ahead and make all the to-do lists you want. But be sure to make space for God's work too.

"Good human work honors God's work. Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love. It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God. But such blasphemy is not possible when the entire Creation is understood as holy and when the works of God are understood as embodying and thus revealing His spirit."

Wendell Berry, American Author

Erin Carroll
Graduate Assistant, Department Mission and Ministry

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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