While Labor Day is a “tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor, for many it’s just another day off from work.
There used to be a time when people took pride in their work. When it wasn’t just a paycheck or a means to an end. A time when you pulled into a gas station and an attendant came running out to fill your tank, wash your windshield and check your oil. Now, if someone does come out to pump your gas, he either looks bored or is texting at the same time.
Of the many jobs I’ve had, it’s my first, at 11 years old, which I look back on with the most fondness: a paper route. I’d get off the school bus, eat a quick snack and plunk the stack of newspapers left by the “wholesale” deliverer into the double-rack sandwiching my back bicycle tire, and off I’d go, bringing the news to 27 families who, without the paper, would have to wait until 5 o’clock to find out what was happening in the world.
Were there days I was tired after school? Had a lot of homework? Wanted to play at my friend Leslie’s house instead? Absolutely. But I knew there were people counting on me to do my job so they could read their paper. Fulfilling that obligation made me feel good.
I’ve since moved on to bigger and better positions, many relying on organizational skills, but it was the lessons I learned delivering newspapers in the rain, through snowstorms or when I had get up early on a Saturday morning after a sleepover, that have always stuck with me. Getting the job done, whether you’re extracting wisdom teeth, folding sweaters or drawing balance sheets; all of them are not only important, but bring self-satisfaction. At least I hope it does.
Labor Day may mark the end of summer for some, a long-weekend away from their daily grind. For others it’s just a reminder of a weary job search. And of course there are those excited with the prospect of new beginnings. Whether you do your job to cover your expenses or because it’s a life calling, there’s something to be said for taking pride in your work.
Singer Jimmy Buffet sings a song, It’s My Job in which he mentions a chance encounter with a whistling street sweeper. Buffet inquiries as to his good mood and the street sweeper says, “”It’s my job to be cleaning up this mess. And that’s enough reason to go for me.”