In 1666, the Great Fire of London devastated St. Paul’s Cathedral. Christopher Wren, the highly acclaimed architect, oversaw the rebuilding of the famous structure.

The story goes that one morning, during the reconstruction, Wren was passing among the workers on the site, most of whom didn’t recognize who he was. He came across three different men doing the same kind of work and asked them individually, “What are you doing?” To this question, he received three different responses. One said, “I’m cutting a stone.” Another said, “I’m earning three shillings and sixpence a day.” The final one said, “I’m building a great cathedral."1

Although engaged in the same activity, each one saw his actions differently. The first was simply doing a task. The second was earning a paycheck. The final one was contributing to a grand work. The first two weren’t wrong. They were indeed cutting stones and earning a living. The third just saw his actions in a much broader light.

Regardless of what you’re doing at any given moment, you can view it at different levels. A seemingly trivial task may also be seen as part of something much bigger, much more significant, depending on how you look at it. You may consider something like changing a diaper as just changing a diaper. You could also see it in light of keeping the child clean and your residence smelling nice. But you could also view it within the broader context of raising a family and investing in future generations.

Even the trivial and mundane tasks done in total obscurity can have significance. Maybe they don’t appear to affect anyone else, but even then, they will still have an impact on you. Every day provides an opportunity to practice living and working as the kind of person you would like to be. Will you be diligent or lazy, selfless of selfish, considerate or apathetic? It doesn’t matter if the work is visible or obscure, the way you do it still matters. And though you may not be physically working on a cathedral like St. Paul’s, every day you’re still involved in a massive construction project–the building of your life.

  1. I’ve heard multiple versions of the story, so it may be apocryphal. In looking up different sources, this one had the details about St. Paul’s and Sir Wren. ↩︎