We just recently commemorated Labor Day. What day would ever be celebrated with the word "labor" in it? For many, it signifies the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Some have made it an excuse to work around the house. Historically, it was initiated by the labor movement in the late 19th century to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.
Our nation was built on rugged individualism and the work ethic. This attitude preceded industrialism, when folks labored on their farms, or family business. Work was a way of life, bringing not only daily sustenance, but great satisfaction. The evening meal was so much tastier and more enjoyable after a hard day's labor.
Recently at McDonald's, I watched a young staffer wiping off tables. I excused myself and asked: "Does your mother know you do this?" She replied: "No, she doesn't, and please don't tell her." Her smile signaled that she realized the difference between a paying job and helping out at home.
Job or no job, the work ethic needs to be instilled in our young people at an early age. That involves parental leadership and training, for sure. Children need to carry their weight on the home front; yes, "chores" are still valid for character building and preparation for the real world.
I began working at age 11, delivering an early morning newspaper. I had to walk over a mile one way just to access the route. On Saturdays, after the deliveries, I revisited every house to collect the subscription money. This was tough, for many reasons, but the rough times were overridden by my enthusiasm generated through becoming a new "businessman!"
Just for the record, after several years of schooling and employment, guess what I did in my final two years of graduate school? Yes, I was a paper "boy" again. At 28, I was throwing some 300 papers daily, and still collecting on weekends. But now my life was further enriched through my weekly interaction with customers. The benefits of that job are still being reaped to this day.
Have you ever watched a dog lazing under a shade tree, and thought: "Man, what a life?" "He doesn't have to work or pay taxes, like I do." But then again, he's a dog, doing what dogs do; he instinctively has no work ethic, and therefore, unlike us, he suffers no guilt about his "lifestyle."
I've enjoyed watching the fish occasionally at the Eastwood Mall. What a beautiful display of God's handiwork. Yet, I've wondered how they can swim in that tank of water 24/7 without getting waterlogged, bored, or neurotic? Do they ever need a "fish psychiatrist?" No. Why? Because they're fish, doing what fish do. We humans were placed in our environment for other reasons, one of which was to work and live with higher purpose. To ignore or reject this built-in imperative is like being a "fish out of water"-it won't work.
Several years ago, my grandson got a job right out of high school at the local Sam's Club. He became a "cart associate" - a sophisticated title for one rounding up grocery carts. Yet, I encouraged him to be the best cart man possible - to be punctual and diligent, even when the boss was gone. I mentioned that employers look for workers who display a humble and teachable attitude; therefore, work to make the boss or company successful, and, in turn, you will be successful. After all, it would be interesting to know how many of Sam's Club executives started out as "cart associates?"
Working hard to do right in the small tasks leads to greater opportunity and fulfillment, regardless of what the numbers say on the paycheck.
Finnigan is a Howland resident. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org