Skip back 35 years.
My daughter was one year old and I was tasked with feeding her lunch.
She had great hand-eye coordination and good motor skills. She waited till the spoon was almost at her lips and then brought her hand across her lips in a smart smack that sent blue and yellow baby food all over her dress, the highchair and the wall.
She giggled. Apparently there was humor in the situation that somehow escaped me.
I cleaned up and tried anew.
She did it again and her timing had improved.
Belatedly I recognized that it would be smarter to delay the cleaning up till after the meal.
There was some ribbon lying around and I tied both her hands to the side of the chair. She started bawling as I determinedly fed her spoon after spoon. Then my wife came in. I waited for her to admire my creative
Instead she went ballistic. I seriously doubted she could have been angrier if she had caught me dissecting our daughter with a blunt razor.
Skip forward to present day.
My grandson is one year old and equally adept slapping aside a spoonful of baby food.
I am sure that there is some genetic learning at play here.
My daughter has long since forgiven me for the violence perpetrated on her and can appreciate that her old man was severely provoked.
But both my daughter and my wife eschew my brilliant solution though there are plenty of ribbons and string lying around.
They point to imaginary birds flying around and laugh loudly as they surreptitiously get a spoonful of nourishment into my grandson’s mouth.
They make odd noises, they invoke deities, they pretend fall down and howl with pain.
And each time my grandson smiles, some more mushed fruit and vegetable goes down his throat.
And they stop exhausted when the bowl is empty.
And I finally realized what was happening.
For me it was all about efficiency.
Children have to be nourished so it was my job to get the recommended amount of enriched mush into them as quickly as possible. Good if done with no wailing but I was OK with some tears if that is what it took.
For them it was all about love. He had to be fed but it had to be a fun experience for him and associated with laughter and joy.
And I remembered what Kahlil Gibran said about work:
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing
about you and watching.
It does not matter if you are feeding a child or writing code or formulating marketing strategy or conducting performance reviews.
How much love are you putting into what you are doing?
Are you doing it mechanically to ‘get it done’?
Or are you, literally, pouring a little bit of yourself into the task you are performing?
Take just a half hour each day and in those 30 minutes do what Gibran articulates so beautifully.
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.