The Role of Work

Work, in essence, is a social activity. In its simplest human ratio, it is the labor of one for another. While these days it seems like it is the other way around, the fact is that industry, all of production — you could even say the world economy — exists to serve human beings: to enrich human lives and allow human intentions to be made manifest. I can work so that others can live and thrive; I can also allow my living and thriving to receive its stream of support through the work of others.

This process ennobles our labors. The farmer tending a community-supported farm has a social responsibility to the shareholders of that farm. They, in turn, relying on the work of that farmer, take a step to make the work of the farm financially possible. This kind of economic interdependence, which cultivates social responsibility through providing for the needs of others, is a central aspect of our life here in Camphill Village.

Work is also a path of schooling. It is a personal training both in outward skillfulness and inward preparedness; glimpse the concentration and quiet joy of craftspeople engaged with their materials and with a process, and you’ll see what I mean.

We value each individual’s pursuit of his or her true vocational path. By working alongside craft-masters and work-leaders with extensive experience, our residents and volunteers receive a high degree of specialized training in any area. These include: caregiving, homemaking, bookbinding; candlemaking, woodworking and weaving; stained glass design and fabrication, baking, farming and vegetable gardening; processing herbs and plants for culinary and medical applications, seed saving and propagation, and forestry.

Work also provides rhythmic structure that carries life through the days and weeks and years; it generates a feeling of security in a routine that places the needs of another at the center. In all the work area in Camphill Village, there is a deep connection to the changing seasons: we accompany nature’s passage through the course of the year, trying to bring a little of the immense creative reality of the seasons into what we shape and nurture with our own hands.

Meaningful work that can be completely taken hold of and that has very transparent aims, often embodies a full process: it has a beginning, middle and end. This holistic aim is one of the essential components of our work life.

There are processes that move from seed to harvested fruit, from grain grown to bread offered at the table of another, from making paper to sewing and binding the book, from wax taken right from the hive to the soft warm light of a hand-dipped candle, from the wool of our sheep to the beauty and intricacy of woven fabrics, and from roots, leaves and flowers harvested, to herbs, teas, and medicines made from them.

One humbles oneself before both tool and raw material in the process of transforming substance. Then, returning to that simplest human ratio we began with — the labor of one for another — we see the picture of wellness and wholeness carried in the hands of the therapist and in the heart of the caregiver. So also, there is the whole passage of a day: from waking to sleeping which begins and ends each day in each one of our homes, is carried forth, in all its details, in the minds and hearts of all who live in and care for these homes.

At all points in these many lengthy and complex processes of caring, of cultivation, of creation, and transformation stands the work of many. Each individual contributes an essential piece of that wholeness which we glimpse in the image of the harvest and which, as seed and offering, manifests in the wellbeing and quality of life embodied in Camphill Village and in the great variety of wonderful products we produce.

– by Joseph Papas