To Be of Use

The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy’s poem To Be of Use concludes with these lines. I was reading her poem thanks to Matthew B. Crawford who has written a popular article in The New York Times titled The Case for Working With Your Hands. Crawford’s essay is from his soon-to-be out book Shopclass as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. It’s hit a chord since many people – both in and newly out of work – are pondering work itself. Crawford’s premise is that working with your hands is more tangible – that fixing a car or toilet is more satisfying than sitting in a cubicle without really seeing the fruits of your efforts. As a mother, one distinction I make is how easily a job can be explained to children. As Piercy writes, “the work of the world is common as mud.”

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