I have worked in a beautiful house, not my own.
I've been drawn in by Downton Abbey, the first Masterpiece Theater offering that I have been addicted to since The Six Wives of Henry VIII back in high school. (Sorry, somehow managed to miss all of Upstairs, Downstairs) Unlike any other experience I have had with books or films about the English aristocracy, this series gives me many moments of understanding the feelings of the 'help.' It must be some sort of aspirational admiration that has always led me to be fascinated with the lives of the 'upstairs' folks and not really think too much about those 'downstairs.' I certainly could not understand the feelings of attachment (or might I say investment) that the paid help had for their families and houses. But now I have worked in a beautiful house not my own. Taking care of details with a dedication that I may not have always brought to my 'real' home.
It's not hard to draw some parallels with some of the inter-personal conflicts that come up at work. We may not have quite the odious characters as Thomas or O'Brien. But there have been times when there is scheming, a bit of back-biting, and a fair share of gossip. That is, of course, like any workplace. (Watch The Office, much?) But when it takes place in what is actually a beautiful house - and the office help is pretty much in the place of the downstairs characters, it's easy to see the similarities. From my dedication to being there every Monday and Friday to wind the grandfather clock in the front hall, to the privilege of setting the table for special dinners with the Wedgwood and crystal (with greater precision and attention to detail than I do at home) and on to the sense of collective investment (bordering on ownership) in the house and the people who dwell there.
I also see in this goings on at Downton Abbey a reflection of our participation in God's world. We gossip, back-stab, connive to get ahead and begin to feel an inappropriate ownership of the things of this world which we live in but do not own. We are trusted with the care of this world, but it is not ours to take liberties with. Someday it will slip away from us. The 'help' may connive and hope to manipulate the Lord of the house to make things work to their benefit. Unlike Lord Grantham, the Lord who sees our hearts cannot be fooled. But he treats his servants with compassion and mercy.
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