- Compassion International Blog - http://blog.compassion.com -

The Dignity of Work

I told you about my new neighbor, the Port-o-Let [3]. One morning, a new big truck came pulling up outside my apartment, and this guy in a yellow vest hopped out.

Armed with a long hose, he proceeded to suck the contents out of the Port-o-Let. Quick as lightning, he hopped back in his truck and was off. Now he’s been showing up in his big green truck each week, happily performing his duty.

And it got me thinking. It’s easy for me to complain about the little parts of my job that bug me (like paperwork and deadlines and meetings). Watching this man gave me a new appreciation for my job. Not, by any means, that I think there is more dignity in what I do than what he does. I believe that there is dignity in the work that God has given each of us to do, no matter how our culture prompts us to view it.

And learning more about the work others do around the world can give us a new perspective on our own work.

Ganesan, shown here with his family in front of his home in India, works each day as a day laborer in other’s fields to feed his wife and two children.

Working as a day laborer is a common occupation of the parents of Compassion children, as most can’t afford to own land themselves and don’t have the education to seek other employment.

Ganesan earns about 450 Rupees a week for his work — about $10.

Resty is a proud mother of two in Uganda.

Her husband is an alcoholic, so a lot of the time she has to find ways to provide for her children by herself.

She hadn’t worked before, but through the Child Survival Program [4], she learned how to start a small business, selling charcoal by the roadside.

She gets about 20,000 Ugandan shillings a month selling charcoal — about $12.

She also learned to weave baskets through the CSP, and sells each basket she makes for about $1.

Ryan and Axl’s dads work as fishermen in Indonesia. (And, yes, that is as in Axl Rose. His dad liked rock music.)

Their fathers leave for the ocean on fishing expeditions and are gone from their family for six weeks at a time catching mackerel.

Each trip, they earn roughly 700,000 Indonesian Rupees — about $77.

Where 17-year-old Ezequiel grew up in southern Mexico, the average worker earns $12 a week, working 20-hour days to harvest mangoes and bananas.

But Ezequiel’s dad is a carpenter who makes beautiful furniture.

At his Compassion child development center, Ezequiel learned how to carve wood, and together with their different skills, Ezequiel and his dad can make pieces like this dresser they just finished.

Once he graduates, a skilled woodworker like him can earn up to $55 a week, compared to the $12 of the day laborers harvesting mangoes.

In India, Suren and his wife, Rinu, both used to work full time in a brick factory. Suren lived in a dormitory at the factory, and Rinu would travel home each day to care for the family. Put together, they earned roughly 250 Indian Rupees a week — about $6 — for their family of six.

But Kajali (in the dark blue sweater) became sponsored, and her sponsors gave them a family gift, with which they bought a cycle van.

Now Suren earns many times over as a cycle van driver what he used to earn at the brick factory. When he was working at the factory and couldn’t provide a proper home for his family, Suren says, “as a parent, I felt worthless and of no good use.”

Those words tear my heart, and it’s sadly not the first time I’ve read the sentiment. How many mothers and fathers are out there, working so hard each day as farmers, drivers, and traders, scraping to provide just one or two meals for their children, and still feeling like failures?

Yet it’s so encouraging to know that even a small gesture can transform a family’s life. Suren is now filled with pride for the way he can care for his family. He says, “through Kajali and her beloved sponsor, we have now tasted of the goodness of God’s awesome power.”