Like half a billion women and girls in India, two teenage cousins were forced to walk away from their homes in the Indian village of Katra in Uttar Pradesh to find a private place to defecate. It was during this time that the two girls were mercilessly attacked: raped and hanged from the mango trees that line the fields of their village.
Perhaps the lives of these two young girls could have been protected through access to a toilet at home. Few of India’s villages have proper sanitation, posing critical threats for women. Because of strict traditions of modesty, women are forced to seek relief in the dark, before dawn and after dusk, leaving them vulnerable to harassment.
Social entrepreneur Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak responded to the tragedy by offering to build a toilet for every home in the village. Since founding Sulabh International in 1970, Pathak has constructed toilets for 1.3 million households, servicing 15 million users daily. (more…)
Recalling his job at a factory as a young man in the 1980s, Trueman writes concerning those who were still at their positions on the line when he had moved on:
Their work possessed no intrinsic dignity: it was unskilled, repetitive, poorly paid, and provided no sense of achievement. Yes, it gave them a wage; but not a wage that provided for anything more then the bare necessities of life plus a few packs of cigarettes and some cheap booze on a Friday or Saturday night. And it raised questions in my mind to which, more than twenty years on, I have still not found answers.
First, how does the church enable those in such jobs to find God-given satisfaction? It is oh-so-easy for those of us who have jobs which we enjoy doing to talk about `the dignity of labour’ when the labour we have has, in a sense, its own intrinsic dignity. But what of the labour that does not have such dignity in and of itself? Which is monotonous, unskilled, boring, poorly paid, and which slowly but surely bleeds any last vestige of creativity and spontaneity out from the veins? The obvious answer is, of course, to find such dignity in extrinsic factors, supremely in doing everything to the glory of God. But, let’s face it, it is a whole lot easier to do an enjoyable job to the glory of God than to sweep the factory floor day after day to the same.
Read the whole thing. There are more pressing observations and questions throughout.
While the object of work is destined to perish, the soul formed by daily decision to do work carries over into eternity…. This perspective on work, as a maturing of the soul, liberates the believer from undue concern over the monotony of the assembly line, the threat of technology, or the reduction of the worker to but an easily replaceable cog in the industrial machine. One’s job may be done by another. But each doer is himself unique, and what carries over beyond life and time is not the work but the worker. What doing the job does for each of us is not repeated in anyone else. What the exercise of will, of tenacity, of courage, of foresight, of triumph over temptations to get by, does for you is uniquely your own. One worker may replace another on the assembly line, but what each worker carries away from meeting the challenge of doing the day’s shift will ever be his own. The lasting and creative consequence of daily work happens to be the worker. God so arranges that civilization grows out of the same effort that develops the soul.
I think this insight is accurate regardless of the nature of the work itself, whether our job is inherently repetitive and mundane, or exhilarating and stimulating. If you want a look at how workers have infused their seemingly undignified work with dignity, check out the episode of Undercover Boss that focuses on Waste Management.