Writing about unemployment, John Stott said, '...although all employment is work (we are not paid for doing nothing), not all work is employment (we can work without being paid for it). What demoralizes people is not so much lack of employment (not being in a paid job) as lack of work (not using their energies in creative service). Conversely what gives people a sense of self-respect is significant work.' (Issues Facing Christians Today, Marshalls 1984 page 169)
I have been thinking about that quote, which I rediscovered whilst researching an article about depression in young people for Crusaders Energize resources this week.
Some of the work I am paid for I enjoy and look forward to so much that, as long as I could earn my living, I would probably do anyway. On the other hand some of the things I have to do for which I am not paid I find draining and wish there was a fee. A friend of mine calls this the difference between real and apparent work. Sorting out the garden, or household DIY maintenance tasks, or phoning the bank call centre is real work. I have to do it. I hate it. It's drudgery and unrewarding (to me).
Sitting down and writing an article on something that interests me, for which I get paid is apparently work (because I get a cheque) but it doesn't feel like work. The same goes for running a Cafe Create evening which goes on my time sheet as 12 hours paid work.
Now the quandary. Today I am a guest at a wedding. It is my day off. I am playing the keyboards in the service which means I have the capacity to ruin someone's big day. So although being church keyboard player is not my job I woke up on my day off feeling I had to work. During the day I will spend a lot of time with people from the church and so will, almost inevitably, have some work-related conversations. Whether or not they are real work will depend very much on who they are with. As I am going to the church building I will drop off some mail and check my pigeon hole. If something is untidy I will tidy it. I will do anything necessary to help because I am there and I know what to do and I am the nearest; not because I am the Associate Minister. But it will feel like work.
Funnily enough I have spent some of this week being paid to chat to, and supervise, an unemployed man painting scenery for our Holiday Club. It seems to give him more of a sense of respect than it gives me. Very perceptive Mr Stott - as ever.
Hands up all those who fill out their time sheets at the end of each day deciding, with hindsight, which of the bits of their day were work and which weren't. Welcome to the twilight world of a part-time Associate Minister. There is no other job like it in the world.
I am taking Tuesday off.