Published in the Rains County Leader on June 8, 2021:
During my formative years – many years ago – developing a good work ethic was a very important part of becoming an adult. My family believed in work.
Dad was never without a job as far as I can remember, and most of my high school years he worked two jobs. Even after he retired from the Post Office, he continued in the work force in various part-time jobs as long as he was able. Mom went to work the same day I entered first grade and continued to work until she turned 50. My brother Jim began to work as soon as he was old enough to have a paper route, and at the age of 78 he still pastors a church. My first baby-sitting job was shortly after my twelfth birthday if I remember correctly, and I applied for my first “real” job at Woolworth’s on my sixteenth birthday.
Work has been a part of, not just my life, but all life from the beginning, and it appears that it will continue into the afterlife. The first book of the Bible says that when God neared the end of His work of creation, He created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Then He created a companion to help him with this work. Of course, after the fall his work became much harder, but that’s another story. The last book of the Bible says that God’s servants will serve Him in Heaven – so those who expect to spend eternity lounging around on a cloud may be in for a surprise.
According to a 2015 article on Quartz.com, psychology professor Barry Schwartz believes that satisfied workers are interested in their work and lose themselves in it. He further says they are challenged by their work, they find opportunities for personal growth and social interaction in it, and their work significantly improves the lives of others.
I’m not sure how many people today believe what Schwartz had to say. Societal attitudes toward work have changed a lot since my days behind the candy counter at the Big Town Mall in Mesquite. Maybe the change began during the 1970s which were named the “Me Decade” by cultural commentators based on the rise of a culture of narcissism among the younger generation. Many governmental aid programs may have contributed as well. Plans that were implemented to provide temporary assistance for those who had fallen on hard times have become a way of life to some.
And then COVID happened, and everybody stayed home. Some businesses were able to continue operating through telecommunication, and some carried on by offering pickup and delivery options. But many businesses had to close altogether during periods of lockdown and are still struggling to get back to normal operation.
COVID is on the downhill slide, at least in our part of the country. After Governor Abbott lifted the mask mandate in Texas on March 2, the predicted spike in cases didn’t happen. Active cases in the State have fallen from almost half a million to under forty thousand, and Rains County had only sixteen active cases as of June 3. Business are open – except for those few who went under during the pandemic – but they’re still struggling.
Almost every restaurant and store in Emory is hiring, but jobs are going unfilled. Where are our people? Are they still sheltering in place, afraid of a virus that has a 99+% survival rate? Or have they become too comfortable sitting on the couch in house pants watching YouTube videos?
Those of you who read my column regularly know I’m not usually this serious, but I love our little town. When I drive down Highway 69 or Highway 19, I’m proud of the fact that there are very few empty buildings and that most businesses are doing a thriving business. But when I see on Facebook that companies are having weekly job fairs to try and attract workers or that restaurants are displaying signs apologizing for slow service and asking for patience as the limited staff works as fast as they can, it breaks my heart.
I think everyone in Rains and surrounding counties mourned when AJ’s Fish House closed their doors, but if something doesn’t change, more businesses will close, and more people will join the ranks of the unemployed. Vacations are fun, and time to relax and unwind is important, but work is a good thing, too. It’s time to get back to work.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1