Good Work

May 11, 2010

As a mom and physician, I have lots of opportunities to work, but I don’t always derive as much satisfaction out of it as I did performing yard work yesterday. It has me considering what is the “good work” I do on a day-to-day basis.

Yesterday I helped my husband with the yard work – raking up the long grass that intermingles among the field of dandelions that is our yard. It was hard work. My hands are sore from the endless raking. My legs hurt from bending and lifting. I was tired and thirsty when I finished.

But, it felt good. I liked the sensation of physical labor, working up an appetite for dinner, and work spent under a cloudless blue sky. It was good work.

As a mom and physician, I have lots of opportunities to work, but I don’t always derive as much satisfaction out of it as I did performing yard work yesterday. It has me considering what is the “good work” I do on a day-to-day basis.

I reflect on a patient recently diagnosed with late stage cancer who is grateful to me for making the diagnosis and getting her to an excellent specialist for treatment. Making the experience of receiving a horrendous and life-changing diagnosis into something even remotely positive is good work. Visiting a patient in the hospital solely to hold a hand or listen to fears is good work. Finding a cheaper combination of pills for an impoverished patient is good work.

At home, coaching my kids how to fly a kite is my good work. Despite endless tangles and kites getting caught in tree branches, the experience led my youngest daughter to proclaim “this is the best day ever”. Listening to my preschooler “reading” a large stack of books or coaching my first-grader through a math worksheet is good work. Working alongside my husband to finish some detestable chore is good work – it reminds us of our partnership and in-it-togtherness that is the happiness of marriage.

Everywhere I look, it seems, at work, at home, out and about, there is good work to be done. However, so many things can cloud my vision making it difficult to perform or commit to doing that good work. This includes ever present time demands, a long to-do list that makes it feel like being productive is the most important thing, busy-ness with so many, quite honestly, meaningless tasks, and fatigue that makes doing one more thing feel overwhelming.

So, the next time I am faced with an opportunity to do something good, I will try to remember the absolute joy and satisfaction of a good job done well. And, I will acknowledge that any meaningful work is worth doing with the best part of myself.