Once, while at an exhibition at the Barbican of those superb American furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames, I saw that they were admirers of this quote: “You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.” …from the Bhagavad Gita. I loved it so much I copied it down.
Before and also during lock down (whilst I have been unable to do my volunteering jobs) I have been wracking my brain thinking about what to do. What work should I do? I’m one of those people who just has to work and will never fully ‘retire’. I’m sure I saw an article somewhere where some very intelligent chap was saying how wonderful and freeing it will be when AI (artificial intelligence) can do everything and how that’s coming very soon, and we will not have to work. Yay!…not. This chap had no sense of the value of meaningful, purposeful, work. Arbeit may not macht frei, but it can certainly help you feel good.
I’m semi-retired. My regular paid job takes about maybe 2 days a week (depending on what’s going on)….and twiddling my thumbs or reading just doesn’t sit squarely with me. So I prayed for some guidance. I don’t know how anyone else talks to God but basically I usually have a kind of journalled discussion with Him. I told him that I would like a job doing something useful…maybe creative..using my hands…
Boy, did he give me one. I have been up til very late some days supplying 2 local shops with 3-layered, 100% cotton face coverings made almost entirely from donated fabric off-cuts. And it seems they cannot get enough of them. People are (still can’t believe this) buying stuff WHAT I MADE!!! The receipts from the sales go to a local mental health charity who run the cafe where I work. The idea was for the cafe to sell the masks…but the cafe is only open half day and gets relatively few customers because of social distancing requirements. So, as I was pushing my bike up the hill in the high street, I stopped at a small boutique and asked if they sell face coverings. Ms. M, (the sister of the twenty-something(?) vegetarian owner Ms. T) said they don’t have any, but had ordered some, although they were not sure when they were coming in. I showed her some of mine. That afternoon I had a text ordering 6 in different patterns, which they would try and sell for a small commission. These masks are fiddly and take me over an hour to cut out, assemble, stitch and iron, cos I’m no expert at sewing (tho I’m getting better). I deliver the masks the day after the order and meet owner, Ms.T, properly for the first time…whereupon…it becomes clear that although this is a fashion boutique selling lovely, ethically sourced clothes…..it’s really a front for an entirely different enterprise all together.
Behind the till is a photo of a fox on a sofa. Is that your pet fox? I ask. No says Ms. T, it’s a fox I rescued and nursed back to health after the wild-life sanctuary said they would have to put it down. It seems that Ms. T is a renowned local rescuer of distressed wild-life. She gets called out for distressed or orphaned baby birds, foxes and squirrels in particular. And sometimes the very young ones need feeding every 15 minutes or so….so….they are sometimes kept, during the day, in the storeroom at the back of the shop. This is probably not entirely permitted, but hey, let’s not get too picky here. The rescued animals eventually get driven by Ms. T or couriered up to a sanctuary 5 hours drive away. Thus when I make my mask deliveries I may get shown a stunning teenage Tawny Owl (this is in the middle of London folks), or I get to hold a 2-week old abandoned baby squirrel with her eyes still shut. Did I expect all this when I ‘launched’ my mask business? No. Did I expect to be making and selling around 20 face coverings a week? No. I expected to make maybe a total of 10 and hope to sell them….but when something’s meant to happen, all the doors fly open. Some local shops are willing to donate their off-cuts/end of roll fabrics for free….
So. I’ve got myself a ‘job’…at least temporarily. I don’t get paid for it, but it has a value – mostly to provide me with something satisfying and creative to do whilst our lives are still restricted. I have finally found my life’s purpose….at least until God arranges some other life purpose…..