Monday, September 1, 2014

A timeless labor lesson

There's one very specific person that has made me appreciate Labor Day, and that's my friend Barney with a story from his childhood. I think about it a lot.

Barney, who is now in his 50's, knew a man from the neighborhood who started working an entry-level job at a corner store. Barney and some other kids saw him working there and laughed at him.

Barney caught Hell when his father found out, and his dad told him exactly why: "Never look down on someone for having a job."

That's advice we should all take.

There's a lot of debate over the social safety net, about how much it helps people, how much it discourages work and how many people abuse it. Those ratios are very difficult to prove,and while I have my sympathies for people who are discouraged from working by government policies, I outright I resent the people who purposely abuse the system - whatever percentage they make up.

There's also the lazy rich kids who never have to work and choose not to. Again, that's not all of rich kids, but whatever number of them exist I resent.

So if I'm going to hold that negative view for the abusers and playboys, how could I not hold special appreciation for the people who do work, especially people in the jobs others look down on: The grocery bagger, the busboy, the convenience store clerk, the fast food employee?

I realize Labor Day is supposed to be about the history of unions in America, and that message gets lost in the time off, barbecues and sales that dominate our culture. My aim is not to diminish that but simply say that in a country where some are born into a life of luxury and never work or choose to scrape by and collect from the state, we all owe some gratitude to the people who work hard.

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