Below is an article written by one of my heroes, George Sheffer, the founder and director of The Dale House Project in Colorado Springs. If you are praying about what to do after college and want to learn more about The Dale House, you can find out more here.
Loving Our Work by George Sheffer
(from “The Dale House Quarterly RAP,” Winter 2009)For many years a framed cross-stitch verse created by Kathy Anderson Bell, a former Dale House staff, has hung on my wall. It says: “If any will not work neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10) The saying from the Apostle Paul applies to those “who refuse to work and not to those who, through no fault of their own, can find no work to do.” (William Barclay, Letters to the Thessalonians, p. 252).
It is a saying frequently called to mind around the Dale House. State regulations understandably forbid withholding food from children and adolescents as punishment, but the principles of the value and dignity of work, the productive use of one’s time and faculties, the enjoyment and fulfillment that should come from our work, are principles we want to instill in our residents.
Many kids come to the Dale House never having held a job before, yet they are only a few months away from having to support themselves fully. It is a daunting task to prepare them for self-sufficiency in just a few short months. Many have not developed a work ethic, jobs are scarce, the work that is available is generally fast food at minimum wage. For a kid who may have been stealing or dealing drugs and, perhaps, gotten used to ample cash in his/her pocket, $7.26 an hour at McD’s or Taco Bell is not alluring.
Thankfully, most of the kids here have been remarkably successful in finding employment and saving their money for independent living. We are pleased when kids find gainful employment and are able to provide for themselves.
Yet, I firmly believe that thinking about work as something one does only to make money and a thing one does just to live is woefully lacking. When work is looked upon solely as a means to gain, it can become hateful and “instead of a friend it becomes an enemy.” (Dorothy Sayles, Creed or Chaos) Sadly, much of our society is entrapped in that very situation. Ms. Sayers states further that “work should not be, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. Work is the natural exercise and function of man – the creature who is made in the image of his Creator.”
When God made man and placed him in the Garden, all his needs were provided – food, water, even gold and jewels. Yet, we read in Genesis 2:15 that man was put in the Garden to “work it and take care of it.” Work was “very good”, a gift in which man was to find spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.
Writer Frederick Buechner describes vocation as a calling from God and says that at its best, it is where “the world’s deepest need and our deepest joy meet.” I love that description and feel very fortunate to have found such a place for me here at the Dale House. I would hope and pray that each person at Dale House will find that special place.
In Ephesians 4:28 Paul writes: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he might have something to share with those in need.” He does not tell us to become useful workmen so that we may reach independence and honestly support ourselves. He says we must become honest workmen so that we may have something to give away to those who are poorer than ourselves. It’s a new ideal – the idea of working in order to give away, not to amass things.