The Transforming Power Of Work

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Last week we argued why we need a vision of a new Jamaica that ignites us to action. One reader responded by saying, “What vision? Many must be tired of hearing this hackneyed expression. Like giving a microscope or telescope to the blind.” So before I introduce this week’s nation-building principle let me tell you a story.

There were three bricklayers working beside each other on a construction job to build a cathedral. A man came up and asked them what they were doing. The first replied, sarcastically, “I am laying bricks!” The second said, “I’m building a wall,” and the third exclaimed “I am building a great cathedral for God!” Who do you think will do the best quality work and be the hardest worker?

Vision is the firewood that fuels work. Work is the mechanism that drives production. For nation-building, work is the natural progression out of vision.

We aspire to be a great nation, a great people. But greatness can only be achieved by working to attain it. The capacity for greatness is within each person, and within us as a nation, but most often we lack the will to do that which will make us great. The creator made us for success and gave us abilities to succeed. On this basis, I share with you the fourth of the nine pillars necessary to build a great nation, the new Jamaica. We have looked at Justice, truth and vision; the fourth pillar is work.

No nation can ever fulfil its potential without a positive mindset towards work, a commitment to work, and actual engagement in hard work. Work has to be a principle on which we build. Families should exemplify it, schools must teach it, churches must reinforce it and society must provide the opportunity for all to practice it.

Work before wife

The first assignment that God gave to man was work. God gave man work before He gave man a wife. I believe that it is significant that this is so. For it was only after Adam was working and succeeding at his work that God gave him a wife. A man not committed to work should not get a wife. All achievement comes through work, and the fulfilment of any vision is only achieved through work.

How strong is our current work culture as a nation? I believe hard work has been our tradition, but that culture and ethic seems to be on the decline. Too many are looking for a handout or asking someone else to “do something for me, nuh”.

Many have become mendicant. There may be many views as to what has caused this, but what is certain is that we cannot be great and prosperous without hard work. Therefore, we must do whatever it takes to regain our work ethic and mobilise our people to wide-scale performance.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Successive governments have talked much about providing jobs, jobs, jobs. First, we have to be sure we have and are intentionally building a people who are committed to work, work, work. Though it may seem that many would prefer a handout to hard work, it really may be the failure of the State to train and provide opportunities for building our citizens’ work ethic.

It appears that national leadership and policymakers are content with these prevailing conditions. We must become a work-focused society. Given the levels of poverty, unemployment, deep sense of hopelessness, and the national debt burden, we should have a team whose primary assignment for a season is to find ways to put people to work and instil a mindset of work. The mindset that understands the importance of work will cause people to work, whether it is paid or voluntary. The work principle and love of it should be so ingrained that when persons are out of paid work they volunteer, because of the understanding of the value and empowering nature of work.

Value of work

Work is a reflection of our Godlikeness. It forms part of our identity; who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Work is honourable and gives a clear sense of purpose, self-worth and value. A man without meaningful work is a danger to himself, his family and to society. This could be one of the reasons our young men, in particular, have little sense of self-worth. They do not believe they can make a contribution to their nation or world.

Other dangerous and mistaken mindsets in opposition to work are entitlement (the world owes you something) and the freeness mentality (something for nothing). Lasting success and prosperity can never come through begging, gambling or borrowing. We must work for what we need. Fulfilment comes through achievement — setting a goal and working to attain it.

All honest work provides value and gives a sense of accomplishment to the worker. We must kill the association of work to that of slavery. It is not slavery to work; rather work helps us obtain liberty.

Work gives the worker the ability to chart one’s own course to develop the reality of independence; to be able to plan one’s own future. The Bible says that the borrower is slave to the lender. When you work, you have the ability to be debt-free and therefore to throw off the shackles of being a slave to another.

Work allows people not just to make a living but to build a life. Consistent work creates the ability to build a future for oneself and one’s family.

Live to work or work to live?

There was a survey done in the US by Aaron Gouveia, based on two questions: Live to work? or Work to live? The survey was to test attitudes of the present generation against those of their grandparents and great grandparents.

Some 19 per cent said they “live to work”. A total of 70 per cent said they “work to live”. People who “live to work” proved to be more fulfilled and 80 per cent said they are fully committed to their work. Some 50 per cent would do extra hours just for the love of it. Only 57 per cent of the “work to live” said they enjoyed their work.

Work, however, needs a vision to give it purpose, both individually and corporately. The vision of a nation must make work a guiding principle. It is critical that we begin, as a matter of urgency, to instil in ourselves and our children the vital importance of work as a fundamental value. Too many are lined up several times a day giving away money to gambling houses in the hopes of winnings — the hope that they could achieve their dreams without actually working for them. This is a false construct within which to operate, and something that we must acknowledge as a serious problem in this country.

Instead, we must learn how to save and how to build businesses and focus our creative energies into honest, lawful and meaningful enterprises that create generational wealth. The emphasis in the minds of our people, youth and youngsters in particular, at this time must be the dignity of work. Train, teach, drill into their minds that real identity, selfhood, creativity, ability, value, satisfaction, can only be best found and expressed in work. They must see and know that performance is what defines who you are.

In a developing nation like ours, small and medium businesses should be the focus for any government. High-energy output and motivation will only come from an engaged people who can see the fruit of their labour. Large conglomerates, monopolies of business and industry, as currently allowed without any checks and balances and control, can destroy the kind of work that brings prosperity to a nation. In such an environment only the few prosper. Hence crime, violence, fear, etc increases and bloody revolution becomes the end result.

All should work for

With our high unemployment and low education levels, a primary focus for work to attain prosperity is the land. God gave mankind land as his primary focus for work. Everything he needs and uses comes from the land. The Government must creatively put our youth to work with hope, by going back to the land. Michael Manley was right on this principle ‘back to the land’ — but wrong in approach. Agriculture and related products and fields should be a focal attention at this time.

Our system of government and its regulatory framework should ensure that there is just reward for labour. For example, the farmers should receive fair prices, not only the resellers. This increases the motivation and excitement of a people to work, and heavily contributes to reinforce in the minds of our people the value in the principle of work.

Both sides in Parliament should agree to put people to work. This requires an understanding of the central pillar of work, and creative, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking. This is where some of the National Housing Trust and Tourism Enhancement Fund monies would be well spent.

Get the idle youth out of the congested, unproductive inner cities and put them to work on idle lands for productive enterprise. This would transform these useless political power bases into useful communities producing for the national economy.

Stop using good farmland for housing and malls. Put people to work the lands. Production, production, production should be our watchword and we all, like our former prime minister, should be working, working, working.

Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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