Work is incredibly valuable. I’m not talking about sitting at a desk pushing papers, tapping away at a computer, or chatting on the phone, either. Regardless of individual temperament, we all need to be regularly engaged in useful manual labor. Preferably such labor will carry us into the great outdoors as well.
The other morning I took a call from my neighbor. At the time I was sitting on my hindquarters while ingesting a healthy dose of coffee. A large branch had fallen on her neighbor’s garage, and she wondered if I could take care of the problem. I leaped at the opportunity! Currently we are between flocks of chickens, and I have missed the simple chores performed outside every morning.
Crisp, cold air greeted me, along with a choir of songbirds. Grabbing a ladder and a bow saw (I don’t own a chainsaw because I am ill-equipped to maintain one properly, and hate the noise), I raced expectantly to the scene. Ten minutes later the branch had been dispatched, and is currently in my yard awaiting “processing” into useful, stackable pieces. Both sets of neighbors bared a disproportionate sense of gratitude and relief on their faces, and I ended up with a solid amount of dry, seasoned maple firewood. Win Win for everybody!
Since losing my day job last year, the occasional sense of usefulness to others has produced a buzz more potent than that of any narcotic. Additionally, such usefulness is mutually beneficial in all cases. This brings me great joy.
1. Our bodies were made to move. If you’re stagnating in a sedentary job or activity, get up and move around for a while. Ideally you will put yourself to good use somewhere. If you have no outdoor chores make them up! Pick up trash along the road, take up gardening, walk the streets triumphantly in joy while greeting fellow pedestrians as brothers and sisters, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Even ten minutes engaged in such activities each day will make you more productive, joyful, and grateful. This is especially the case when you find yourself overly “busy.”
2. Once again, work is intrinsically valuable. Every stick and log I use to keep me warm while writing, reading, or visiting with friends, in my “shack” has been painstakingly cut by your’s truly. This enables me to appreciate the warmth all the more. I find myself thankful for each stick of wood that ends its useful life in combustion. For years they had performed the admirable task of beautifying the neighborhood, helping to sustain the tree in which they were just a small part, and converting carbon dioxide into useful oxygen.
3. With today’s haul I’ve got a healthy head start on a wood supply for next winter. My one-room shack doesn’t require much to heat it, but if I wait until fall to prepare I’ll be overwhelmed. Laying up wood, gradually, provides me with the luxury of enjoying the process, often in increments of ten minutes or less.
4. A little at a time adds up to a whole lot in the end. Often my walks through the neighborhood find me returning home with a single branch (as small as 6 inches in length). Removing debris from the street is useful to others, and I benefit by gradually adding to the woodpile. Do this 100 times and you’ve got at least 100 individual pieces to feed to the fire. Generally these are cut into suitable lengths, so I realistically obtain 400 or more additional pieces of wood annually through the simple act of observing treasures that have fallen to the earth and gratefully dragging them home. This is the magic of compounding at work. Most people fail to grasp this, and walk by such small opportunities every day. Assuming you could care less about wood, insert whatever is applicable in your own life. Perhaps you want to write a book, but don’t have the time. 1,000 words each day, which isn’t much, could have you reaching your goal inside of two months. You would have wasted that time on social media anyway, so it costs you nothing. We can accomplish much by taking one bite at a time.
5. Chores outside enable us to become better connected to the natural world and with our community.
6. Chores help provide regularity, rhythm, and stability to our lives.
7. Chores make us feel good. Using our muscles in a useful activity is profoundly rewarding. It also promotes physical health, reduces obesity, etc.
8. Such work is a proven antidote to the physical degradation brought on by a sedentary existence.
9. It clears our minds, providing clarity. Requiring a short break to finish this list, I just returned from the back-and-forth motion of cutting eight small logs. I need regular moments of peace in the day like this. I possess all the genetic markers that resulted in my mom’s hoarding (discussed in my book). I clearly have a dose of OCD myself. Chores and hard work help me to focus, and turn what could be a major disability into an actual asset. I honestly believe this.
10. Manual labor reduces stress as our body releases endorphins.