Thursday, June 3, 2010

To Be of Use

"...I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
~ Marge Piercy ~
(Excerpt from the poem To Be Of Use)

I find very little to say, that isn't better said in this poem.

I have spent the last year 6 months exhausted. I teach ESL classes to Spanish-speaking adults during the day, and to Russian-speaking adults at night. The classes couldn't be more different, and yet in the end they are the same. Honest people, hard-workers, determined to embrace a culture and a language that is not their own. We talk about the difference between "work" and "walk", and why Americans insist on using articles before nouns. And we talk about our families and homes and dreams.

Somewhere in between the two classes I often get on the phone, and switch from English to Swahili, to talk with the SHONA ladies half way across the world. This time my language is stumbling and theirs is fluent. But still it is the same. We talk about the cut of a cloth, and the length of a stitch. And we talk about families, and homes and dreams.

Sometimes I feel that SHONA inches along. You may notice that umm...I haven't been doing a great job at getting new products up in our store or getting publicity out there. That is not to say it's not coming, but I am sure a different person would be out there networking and "advocating" and tweeting up a storm by now. Sometimes I believe that the SHONA women deserve a louder voice, or a more connected friend. There are people that would probably have them on Oprah by now.

And here we are in the mud, "the work of the world is common as mud". And we inch along slowly.

But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

And when I look at the faces of those standing beside me,
I am thankful for work that is real.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great Stuff---I have been in 'Burn Out' mode quite a few times. especially as a teacher. And only when I finally surrender to the fact of my personal powerlessness and go to a Power Greater than myself to guide me and then let Him guide, do I find rest and direction.
Hang Tough
Mike C