Choose your path: Laborer, craftsman, artist

By Ken Neher
Senior Moments

I read recently that St. Francis of Assisi described three ways of being in the world. The first was the laborer: someone who works with just their hands. The second is the craftsperson: someone who works with their hands and their head. The third is the artist who works with their hands, head, and heart. I like that.

As I reflected on that passage I realized I’ve been in the world in all three of those ways. Like some of you, I’ve packed cherries. I wasn’t a sorter, but I was a dumper. I stood in the cold warehouse all bundled up and dumped bin after bin of cherries on to the sorting and packing line. This, my friends, is pretty much the definition of hands work. Not particularly fulfilling stuff for me, but many people are happy as a laborer.

I’ve also worked with my hands and head for a time as a home remodeler. This is when the hands need the head to get involved and run wiring up to code, plumbing that drains the proper way, and install sheet rock as smooth as a baby’s behind. And, it was pretty satisfying standing back and looking at a job well done at the end of every day.

Today, I work at Garden Terrace low-income senior apartments, a nonprofit that provides financially vulnerable seniors a safe and secure community where they can thrive. The paperwork keeps my hands busy. The planning and problem solving engages my balding head. And the heart is fully engaged with the mission of this place and the wonderful generous residents who live here. Look mom, “I’m an artist now!” Most of my skills, collected over the years, are happily shared daily in this vocation. I’m a “happy and creative camper.”

All of this informs me that our happiest residents will most likely be residents who can regularly do something helpful or creative. Things like being involved in a Bible study, doing crosswords, or engaged in pithy conversation. We need seniors who contribute to life in this place or wherever their heart tugs at them: Lighthouse Ministries, Senior Activity Center, Wenatchee Valley College, Chaplaincy, Humane Society, Family, Special Friends, and the list goes on.

It’s not bad advice for anyone these days. You shouldn’t be living out your Senior Moments to be fully alive and engaged in this world. Reflect a bit and discover if you are a laborer, craftsperson, or an artist. If you’re not yet an artist, try opening your heart to the world around you and see where it leads you.


Kenneth E. Neher is executive director of the senior living community of Garden Terrace in Wenatchee.