Our son Aaron recently completed a summer internship with the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), where he had the opportunity to learn about the risk issues faced by this organization, which serves the Bexar County area.

This was Aaron’s first employment opportunity, and the challenging first week prompted him to comment the following:

It’s tough having to be at work a whole 8 hours per day, especially when there is so much to learn!”

My first thought was to use this opportunity to reinforce the value of hard work and the importance of working long hours. However, wisdom stepped in, and I took a different angle. After more than 30 years in the workforce, I’ve learned that hard work can be enjoyable if we are in the right career.

However, when we dislike our occupation, it may seem like a prison sentence.

The Giving Time Angle

My Brothers in Christ and I recently served on the Holy Spirit Catholic Church ACTS (Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service) retreat as team members. To prepare, we met and planned for 13 weeks prior to the retreat.

As volunteers, we not only give our precious time, but we also donate our talent and treasure. We were excited that 32 men attended the weekend event, which was held on the beautiful grounds of Cordi-Marian Sisters and Retreat Center here in San Antonio, Texas.

During the retreat, we worked nonstop, starting at 5 am and ending around midnight on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Sunday, we completed our retreat with a Mass at the parish. Our team was composed of 40 men who volunteered for different services, such as Agape, Communications, Foot Washing, Music, and Stewards.

The work was tough, and we had to be ready to jump in when we were needed in another service. The beauty here is that no one complained about the additional work and long hours. We just wanted to provide a beautiful, Christ-centered experience to our participants.

The camaraderie was unbelievable, and little attention was paid to who received the credit. We each did our part, and we did more without being asked. It’s interesting that we did not view this as work. Instead, we had goals and a vision, and everyone was committed to getting it done.

That is My Point

As I write these words, the answer to the meaning of hard work is easier for me to understand. When I do work that I enjoy and that has meaning to me, the difficulty and toughness of the effort does not matter much.

In other words, my employment should be in an occupation that has meaning to me. It might take me a few jobs, but it is my responsibility to keep searching to identify what I love to do.

During my conversation with Aaron, I mentioned that the level of compensation should be secondary. I remember the jobs where I was paid well, but I did not enjoy what I did. In some cases, these occupations required significant travel. I was constantly away from my family on the weekends, which meant that I was unable to attend Mass services with them.

Today, I limit work assignments that require travel. I will earn less money, to be sure. However, I no longer feel like the walls are closing in on me.