Monday, September 01, 2014

Work: Ironic, isn't it, that Labor Day is a holiday?

"Find a job you love, and you'll never have to go to work."
      -- Mom

Lyrics from the song, "U.S. Steel," by Tom Russell:
"You made their railroads, rails and bridges.
You ran their driving wheels.
And the towers of the Empire State are lined with Homestead Steel.
The Monongahela valley no longer hears the roar.
There is cottonwood and sumac weeds,
inside the slab mill door.
And this mill won’t run no more."

Labor Day is a uniquely American holiday. 
For many people, Labor Day isn't even a "holiday" -- they go to work: on farms, in retail stores, convenience stores, in public safety, sports, entertainment, news, construction, mining, etc. These people have to work on Labor Day, whether they want to, or not.

Lots of people without jobs don't have that opportunity. Others choose to work -- self-employed entrepreneurs, artists, writers, musicians, etc.; they can't help themselves.

Granted, work is something you do, not talk about, but Labor Day is a good day to reflect on the nature and meaning of work. Work, any kind of work, represents opportunity. It puts food on the table; a roof over the head; toys for the dog.

Work can be enervating, energizing and inspiring. Or it can be soul-sucking; energy-depleting; drudgery. Work can be something you do because you want to do it -- because it gives you the satisfaction of a job well done, of achievement, of accomplishment, of something to be proud of. By work, we can make a difference; a better place of the world.

Mining: dirty, dark and dangerous
That holds true whether your work is "play" (pro sports), or entrepreneurship, craft, blue collar, white collar, gray collar, pink collar, sweat-stained collar, on the farm, in the factory, in the plant, at the waterworks, in the snakepit of politics, in the cloud of academia, or the gray of Cubicle City, Dilbert's world. Work is work.

One thing for sure: If you've ever been in deep coal mine, you'll appreciate working above ground.

There's such a thing as "Pittsburgh work ethic," and anybody from Pittsburgh knows what that is. You work.

The unemployment line
If you're fortunate enough to have gainful employment, to have work that enables you to support yourself and the ones who rely on you, you're blessed, lucky, fortunate. Anybody who's been poor can relate. Work is good. It's good to have the opportunity to apply your talents and skills, your blood, muscle, corpuscles, neurons, hands, brainpower, energy. It's good to work up a sweat.

Even if you're unemployed, you have an opportunity: Your job is to get a job, or to make a job -- which more and more people are forced to do in this economy of self-employment.

Work is an opportunity. What you do with it is your business.

Our late friend Mickey McGovern once said of a neighborhood slacker who avoided work at all costs, "He thought Manual Labor was a Mexican waiter!"

Or, as Maya Angelou said, "Nothing will work unless you do."

Labor Day: Time to get to work.

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