Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What have I done today?

The other day I emerged from my office building to find a row of brand-new streetlamps standing handsomely on the sidewalk. They’d all been installed during the time I’d been inside, sometime between 9:30am and 6pm. My immediate reaction was one of gratitude to the men who’d set up the lamps, but this feeling quickly morphed into one of shame. What had I done that day of value? Had I made an impact on the world in any way, done anything to change my environment the way these men had?

Hardly. I’d written a few paragraphs of copy for an internal document, copy that would likely never be seen by anyone outside the office. I’m not naïve—I know there are millions of desk jockeys and cubicle monkeys who slave away at monotonous, uninspiring work each day; I also know that being a blue-collar construction worker is not a dream job, and that those men probably did not consider their labor particularly fulfilling or interesting.

Nonetheless, I was humbled by the juxtaposition of our respective accomplishments this day. I consider myself a “creator”—I chose the career path of a writer in order to bring original ideas into this world. But on any given day, who’s creating more value for the citizens of my community, a construction worker or myself? The answer is clear.

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