Nearly every day at work, the interconnectedness of things is shoved in my face. Perhaps this is because I am a cabinetmaker's apprentice. If you don't know, cabinetry is an exact art. I have done my fair share of handyman-type work, but until I started this job, I had no idea how much difference 1/64 of an inch could make. I start at the very beginning, taking (practically) raw lumber, cutting and milling it first to rough and then exact dimensions. W. (the cabinetmaker) does the work that requires real finesse, cutting intricate patterns in the wood and joining different pieces to make the individual parts of a complete cabinet. Then, I make it all smooth with various grades of sandpaper, and the finisher makes it look like one solid piece of wood.
Hopefully, the homeowner is happy with the final result. But what I realized today is that the end result largely depends on me. If I don't do my job correctly, and the wood is milled to inexact sizes or is full of knots and warped, everyone who comes after me is working with flawed material from the start. If I am unaware of what I am doing, I waste not only my time, but everyone else's time as well.
Mine is the roughest, most inexact stage of production, but it is also the most vital. (Granted, the people who make the plans we follow have a more vital role in this scheme of things, but I know so much less than they do that I choose not to comment in this respect.) If I make a mistake, everyone pays for it. Either a piece will have to be re-made, or it will have to be wiggled in some way that costs everyone time and money.
Every little thing counts. Every mistake I look past, saying, "Someone else will catch that", could potentially ruin the job. So I am forced into awareness at work. I am forced to pay attention to the details no one else will see. And it makes me happy. People talk about "work ethic", and I suppose this is what they mean. But to me, this is a theology of work. I get to participate daily in the creative action of God, who lets nothing slide by as unimportant, who sees the effect of every seemingly insignificant action... who cares infinitely about the happiness of the person at the end of the line.
It would be easy to say that my job is boring because I sand wood all day. But I say my job is fulfilling because I know that it is so much bigger than me and the task I'm given. I know that if I do it right, my coworkers will be less harassed, my boss will have less to fret about, and our customers will feel like they did a good thing in hiring us. That means referrals and more jobs, which in turn means I can make more money to take care of my family.
J Boss probably thinks that when I tell him I am grateful to be working, I mean that I am grateful to have a job, but there's so much more to it than that...