I’m a sucker for Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs With Mike Rowe. If there’s a marathon playing on some rainy Saturday, clear my day. I’m not going anywhere.
Watching the eager and beleaguered host descend into a landfill or ascend from a septic facility, covered in filth, is just good television. Some of the jobs are exotic, such as feeding Vervet monkeys in a South African animal sanctuary; others are less desirable, like clearing road kill under the hot summer sun. It doesn’t matter. Once you see past the dirt from the work that Rowe so earnestly demonstrates, something remarkable shines through: grace.
Life is like that: One big collaborative process, a factory with many employees. Our jobs may differ, but we are all working toward one goal.
Never was teamwork more evident, or more inspiring, than on September 12, 2001, in lower Manhattan, the day after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Rescue workers formed bucket brigades to sift through rubble from the collapsed Twin Towers hoping to find survivors. Shoulder to shoulder, these brave women and men—wingless angels in hard hats—passed buckets of debris for days on end. News footage showed a large team working with diligence and steely purpose. They were many, but they were one.
The beauty of working in a team can also be found in less altruistic measures. Between the ages of 16 and 19, I worked in a grocery store. It wasn’t glamorous, but in my time there I learned how a hundred or more employees in various departments could work together for a shared purpose. From produce to pharmacy, floral to check-out, we each contributed.
But it goes even deeper: The foods on the shelves were the fruits of labor from the farmers who grew them, the processors who packaged them, the drivers who delivered them. It’s profound to think about: One cartful of food reflects the work of many.
My job differed from the function of a deli worker, but we were linked. We may not have been helping to clear devastation from a national tragedy, but we were doing good work in less philanthropic ways. I was allied with many others. Our histories were not the same; our beliefs may have differed. But we are still connected.
As Catholics, we are each employees in a large factory with God as our direct supervisor, our leader. It’s a sacred company to be a part of. It’s soul-enriching work. And the benefits aren’t half-bad.