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Monday, September 5, 2011

For Those Who Work Hard

Today is Labor Day.  Many of us had the day off from our usual occupations, to honor and respect the American worker.  Since I was one of them, I postponed this week's blog until now.

I'd like to say a few words about those who labor, and the respect they deserve.

There is a group of friends that I sorely miss.  They live in my hometown on Long Island, and they raise their families together, sharing good times and bad, and sometimes sharing profit and loss.  Had Hurricane Irene not rained on our parades, I would have sojourned out to the Island to wish Happy Birthday to my godson and his older brother, and to acknowledge that they will both become big brothers this winter.

When I think about hard work, the image of these boys' father pops into my head.  I have known him since we were both in the first grade.

When we were in high school, he played hard more than he worked hard.  If you knew him, you'd see he was a star.  Every guy wanted to be him, know him, or hang with him.  Every woman . . . he should be the one to finish that sentence, and not me.  :)  He was the coolest, the hippest, the funnest, and the savviest.  Point being, he brought good times with him everywhere he went, and elevated everything he touched. 

Since high school ended, this man's time to play hard also ended.  However, he replaced that effort with his capacity to work hard, which he has done ever since.  He is an expert electrician and cable installer. His knowledge requires him to traverse the entire tri-state area to wherever his work is needed, so he may support his family.  He also can handle every type of home improvement issue that suburban life can throw at a man.  And he never, and I mean never, complains about how difficult or uncomfortable it is.  In fact, even while working harder than he did as a teen, he still has that attitude that elevates everything he touches.  As a father of two, soon to be three, boys, this is the right example to emulate.

What does this mean for the rest of us?  Transference of attitude, I think.  Many of us get lazy and start complaining over our job conditions.  We tend to do so with no idea of how much worse it could be if our jobs were suddenly taken away from us, which does happen in this economy.  We are better off taking pride in the work we do and the profit it brings us.  If many of us worked the way my friend does, we might not think of it as easy.  He probably doesn't either.  You wouldn't know that, though, because he carries himself through his work as if he were still in high school.  Still laughing, cracking jokes, and showing grace under pressure when things were rough -- much the same way he did when confronted with an overzealous disciplinarian in the old academic days.  Maintaining this same posture towards adversity and difficulty is what sets him apart from other men, now and then. 

The Four Pillars tell us that we exist, matter, belong, and deserve.  They don't tell us that we are spoiled, or that effort is beneath us.  Although he's brought this attitude to work and fun long before yours truly typed out the Four Pillars, he's actually been applying them better than most people I know.  He makes himself an integral part of every project he's on, and earns respect on top of remuneration.  Such is the manner that each of us should approach our job and/or business, should we hope to succeed.

However, the spotlight does not only belong to him this week.  Although this blog is primarily meant to provide motivation for men and boys with low self-esteem, it has come to my attention that most of the people who follow this blog are female.  Not to pander or glad-hand, but in the interests of further increasing traffic, I'd like to show the example of a woman I know who works just as hard as this man, if not more.

She is a single mother of three daughters.  She was in a marriage that was not doing her family or herself any good.  She took the risk of not only ending the marriage, but also moving her family clear across the country for a better life.  This move required her to work, and to work hard once she arrived there.

This move required her to make sacrifices.  Life got less comfortable than it had been previously, and sacrifices had to be made that required her and her girls to give up the creature comforts they had previously enjoyed.  Despite it all, on she presses.

Not everyone in her family or circle of friends agreed with this decision. Some of them gave her a cold shoulder, and others reneged on promises made. Even with so much unfairness of things, she worked two jobs, or one with additional hours, so that her girls could have what passes for a normal life. She has also moved on from the remnants of her marriage to find love and respect from a man who recognizes her and loves her for who she is. She is now the modern-day embodiment of the protagonist of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children."

This woman has also used the Four Pillars without realizing it. Despite the fear, doubt, and rejection that came her way, she knows that she plays an indispensable role. She plays the primary caregiver role for her family, teaching her girls the values of self-reliance and discipline. She reminds them to learn from her example of the right choices to make and the mistakes to avoid. She teaches them that even if they may hate the decisions she makes, they are done out of love and concern first and foremost.

So let's all remember the American worker. If there were no blue-collar workers, we'd all be living in tents. If there were no white collar workers, we'd be living in anarchy. If there were no green-collar workers, our environment would be deadly. And if nobody worked, we couldn't live.

Have a good week getting back to work and school, all. And don't forget to comment, like, and follow on Facebook and Twitter!