The Way You Feel

By Joseph J. Mazzella • August 19, 2016

When I was eleven years old my family moved to a new home on the top of a mountain. It was a lovely, little house, but it only had well water that was heavy in iron and the only source of heat was a wood stove in the kitchen. My Dad had become disabled with a back injury so it was up to me and my brother to chop and carry in the wood for the stove and to carry home five gallon containers of drinking water from a nearby spring. I hated both chores and avoided them whenever I could. For the first few years there then my older brother did most of the work.

When my brother left home for the army, though, it was up to me to take over these chores. At first I grumbled to myself a lot but after a while I found that I didn’t mind doing them at all. Maybe I was growing up or maybe I was becoming a little less spoiled. All I knew was that it felt good being able to help Mom and Dad. It felt good being able to show my love for them in this small way. It made me feel alive, happy, and closer to God even while I was straining my muscles and working up a sweat.

There is an old Zen saying that goes: “Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water.” When I first saw it, I instantly remembered those boyhood chores and I realized at once what this saying meant. It isn’t the work that matters. It is the way you feel when you do the work that matters. In this life we are all going to have hard work of one kind or another. It can be a misery to us or it can be a joy. The choice is ours. When we do our work with love, however, it ceases to be work at all. It instead becomes a gift that we give to ourselves and to others.

May all of your work be filled with love. May all of your life be filled with love. And may God’s light shine bright within you always.

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