By Corinne Wnek
The hot dogs and hamburgers are on sale, ice-cream prices are slashed in half and the stores can’t give the lemonade away. Yes! Its Labor Day weekend. Now as far as I know, the United States is the only country that actually celebrates ‘labor’ to the extent that it was made a national holiday. To most of us, though, this weekend signals the unofficial end of the summer season. “Oh no, oh no, it’s back to school I go”, has been my mantra for about a week now. I’m starting to get used to the idea, though. I’m not so sure about my students.
So, in keeping with the spirit of Labor Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about work and how fortunate I am to even have a job, especially one that I love. Not everyone can say that, for a lot of reasons. But once September comes around, I really do look forward to getting back to my job as therapist, referee, mother-in-waiting, college advisor, mediator, life coach, healer of adolescent wounds and explainer of bad news.
This is in no particular order because as a high school counselor you never know from hour to hour just who or what is going to come at you. What you thought was pleasantly and definitely resolved two weeks ago is suddenly up for discussion again, with a vengeance. One, as they say, “goes with the flow”. For a structured, organized, methodical, agenda-worshipping educator, such as me, this can be tough, although I knew what I was getting into.
But a long time ago I was taught how to work from some of the hardest workers I have ever known. Although my parents weren’t professional teachers themselves, they knew a lot about learning. They taught me by their example. In education, we call that ‘modeling behavior’. I learned that one is never late to work, that you give your best everyday otherwise getting paid is like stealing and that daily kindness to the people around you really does matter because you never know what burden someone else is carrying. My parents made this look easy. I’m still working at it.
But it’s the same today as I look at how some other people approach their work. Take my neighbor Joe, who apparently doesn’t believe in retirement. At 71, he continues to be active in his construction business that now is mostly run by his son. But Joe is still out of the house everyday by 6:30 a.m. and goes to the work site just to make sure Junior is getting it right. Whatever needs to be done that day, he does it. It’s all about being useful.
At 71, I hope to sleep a little later in the morning. But then I remember my Italian grandfather who continued to work into his 80s because, way back then, people thought that if you retired, you might die. I think I will die if I have to work into my 80s! By then, I won’t care if I’m useful or not.
At a time when our economy is suffering and so many people have lost their jobs, I can only imagine what a bittersweet weekend this is for those individuals so personally affected by the lack of work. Here’s hoping these people catch a break soon and things turn around for them and their families.
So, on this last, glorious weekend of summer as the grills get fired up, why not celebrate what we have today and what no economy can take away, the company of our friends and families one more time?
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