Workthatreally iswork

| 11 Jul 2012 | 06:17

    I'm sitting here tonight in my comfortable office chair in my air conditioned house, sipping a Diet Dr Pepper, munching on Cheetos and watching the news on TV while I type a few words here and there.

    This is what I call "working." "Honey, tomorrow is garbage pick up day," my wife says, catching me in mid-munch. "Can you take the garbage out to the curb?"

    "I'm sorry," I say as I slosh down a cheesy mouthful with some of the carbonated nectar. "I'm working."

    It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

    Burp. Then on the TV I see a news report about wildfires raging in the American West. There is video of firefighters in heavy gear scrambling up and down mountain sides, using shovels, picks and axes in a back-breaking attempt to draw a fire resistant line against the advancing flames.

    Wow, I think as the report flashes to a couple of firefighters at their base camp, gasping for air and gulping water as they gear up for a return trip up the mountain. They look hot and tired and thirsty. In fact, just watching them makes ME thirsty. I take another long sip of soda.

    The reporter notes that one firefighter broke his leg in today's battle on the mountainside. The only thing I've ever broken while working is a fingernail.

    But seriously, that hurt. A lot.

    At this point I'm no longer even pretending to write. I'm staring at the TV, transfixed by the intensity of the work being done by the firefighters. The reporter says it was 95 degrees outside that day. I can't even imagine how hot that feels to men and women who are working so hard on the mountain, so close to the hot flames, and wearing all that mandatory safety gear.

    Suddenly my work doesn't seem so much like work any more.

    Toward the end of the report I start thinking about my nephew Jake, whose work has taken him to Afghanistan as a soldier, where he must daily wear similarly hot and heavy protective gear in anticipation of another kind of firefight. And another nephew, Michael, whose work in law enforcement requires that he wear a vest that will – God willing – slow down a bullet that is fired at him. Every day his wife, Rebecca, sends him off to work hoping that he won't need that vest that day – and if he DOES, hoping that it works.

    You may be surprised to learn that no one has ever taken a shot at me as a result of anything I have written.

    At least, not with bullets. It occurs to me that there are a lot of people out there whose jobs are a lot harder and a lot more dangerous than mine. And that's OK – we all have different talents, interests and skills, and how we pursue our interests through those talents and skills takes us in decidedly different directions. I don't think my particular skill set – or my aged, arthritic knees – would be of much use to those firefighters on the mountain. And I suspect many of them would feel equally ill at ease spending 12-14 hours each day in front of a word processor, trying to do … well … whatever it is that I do.

    But before I crawl into the soft security of my bed tonight, my work done for the day, I'm going to be on my knees thanking God for the men and women who are still up working, doing hard, dangerous jobs so I can do my work – such as it is – in comfort, safety and peace.

    With or without the Cheetos. (To read more by Joseph B. Walker go to