09/25/2021 No Ethic is as Ethical as the Work Ethic   Leave a comment

My father was what I always considered a force of nature. He was big, strong, and opinionated, and never feared to speak his mind to anyone. My family on both sides of the tree were blue-collar immigrants to the United States and settled in western Pennsylvania. At that time the area was a maze of coal mines, steel mills, glass plants, and chemical factories. My grandfathers, uncles, and my father worked the mills and mines and were my role models. All of my friends fathers were the same and as kids we watched them march off to the mines and mills every day at 5 AM to return filthy and exhausted at 6 PM or later. Family was everything and taking care of them was every adults priority.

I was about seven when my father’s union went on strike. He didn’t receive unemployment insurance only a small stipend from the unions strike fund. The strike was mean and nasty and seemed to go on forever. My father was forced to find a part-time job to bring enough money home to pay for the basics. There was a government surplus food program that supplied us with 10 pounds of processed cheese every couple weeks, a box of powdered milk, and containers of my all-time favorite, powdered eggs. We survived on that stuff but it was god awful.

My father found a part-time job delivering coal. He’d arrive at the mine at 5:30 AM, pick up the dump truck and a load of coal, and begin his deliveries. He worked between 10 and 12 hours a day just to make $15 a day. He would arrive at the clients home, remove sections of a metal chute from the truck and clip them together to reach the coal chute of the house. He would then tip the truck bed up and push coal down the chute and into the residence. He collected the money from the homeowner and proceeded on to the next house. At the end of the day he turned in the money at the mine and went home.

I was seven years old and I wanted to be with my dad and help him and I bugged him to death to take me to work with him. He finally agreed that a couple of times a week I’d be permitted to ride along and help. So my dad and I delivered coal throughout the neighboring communities for the duration of the strike. Him doing all the work and me trying to help. We’d get home late, filthy dirty from coal dust, and hungry enough to even eat those crappy powdered eggs.

I saw what hard work really was all about by watching my dad. He never complained and always did what was needed to take care of the family. He returned to work after the strike without bitching and complaining and never looked back. He worked for that employer for another 35 years and eventually ran the maintenance department for the entire PPG complex. He eventually took his well-deserved pension, retired, and lived out the remainder of his life a reasonably happy person.

Those memories are what created in me a good solid work ethic. It made me something of an over achiever and that stayed with me throughout my own career until my retirement a few years ago. Everyone should be so lucky to have role models like that. If they did, then the term “work ethic” would never again be a concern or a point of discussion.

HARD WORK IS ESSENTIAL FOR MENTAL HEALTH

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