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Another Day in the Country

Three cheers for labor

© Another Day in the Country

Someone asked me, “What does Labor Day mean to you?”

Truthfully, not much. During my days of working 9 to 5, it would have meant a long weekend.

Then it became a day off, a holiday, no mail, and the bank is closed.

Once we moved back to Ramona, the only thing of note on Labor Day was the Burdick parade.

“Let’s go support them,” my sister would say, and we’d dig up some costume and join the parade.

Not this year.

This year, Labor Day came to mean the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina. But that would be a crowd, and there would be people defiantly not wearing masks, so it was best to stay home. Furthermore, it rained that Saturday.

Labor Day’s primary meaning was not celebrating labor. If anything, it was the lack thereof. But this year I celebrated labor.

I got one corner cleaned in a room where I keep art supplies. I cleaned out the refrigerator. A week or so ago, I made sauerkraut, and I’ve been waiting for it to become just the right amount of sour. Labor Day was the day I deemed the fermenting kraut “perfect,” so I canned sauerkraut.

Knowing how to work, how to organize tasks, how to accomplish something, is quite a gift.

One of my first lessons, as I recall, was “how to sweep.” My mother was exacting, showing me how to hold the broom, how to corral debris, how not to swish dust into the air.

I’m glad I learned to sweep properly and effectively.

Often times, in this small town, I’ve had children come to my door looking for work. My first question is, “What do you know how to do? How can you help me?”

Their first concern usually is, “How much money will I get?”

It’s a wonderful gift that we give our children if we teach them how to work. Once you get the idea of how to complete a given task, you are on the road to success.

I actually enjoy working. I love that feeling of accomplishment. Being proud of the work you’ve done is a bonus, whether it’s filing or filling the dishwasher.

Being a preacher’s daughter, one of my early jobs was folding church bulletins for my dad. Dad showed me how you could take two to three sheets (or even more) at a time and crease them, then come back and smooth the crease individually. It would speed up the process. I soon learned how many sheets you could grab at a time before it threw off the evenness of the edges. I seemed to always have this urge to go faster and faster, to see how quickly I could get things done!

Sometimes there were collating jobs in the church office for newsletters and such, and Dad would put out the call. My sister and I remember racing to see how fast we could do it. Obviously, Dad wasn’t paying by the hour. We just wanted to get it completed. Maybe that’s why I took secretarial courses when I went to college.

“How to wipe off the table” was another early lesson. Sometimes when I’m sitting in a restaurant and I watch a waitress clean off a table, I think, “Didn’t your Mom teach you how to wipe a table? Apparently not.”

I believe that once you’ve learned how to work and enjoy the process, no matter the jobs available, you’ll always be able to find work. Good workers are scarce these days. Businesses that furnish starter jobs, like fast-food restaurants, must be pulling their hair out trying to find competent people.

My daughter manages a spa. She hires a lot of college kids who are looking for part-time work. She’s really good at training them — and she does have to teach them — how to answer the phone, how to book appointments, how to greet customers and long-time members, how to be polite (especially when you’re having to remind adults about the rules to wear a mask), how to pay attention to details, follow through, look people in the eye, speak clearly, get to work on time, stay focused until the last minute, and finish your job. It’s great training for life!

What I really wanted to do on Labor Day was not labor. I wanted to go somewhere exciting, eat out, preferably with friends. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I accomplished some things that needed to be done, and I felt good about it, just enjoying another day in the country.

Last modified Sept. 16, 2021

 

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