Sunday, June 23, 2024

What Happened to the American Work Ethic?


My parents retired from reaching elementary school in 1992 after decades of service to the Cass County, Indiana Public School System. They worked long hours after the conclusion of the school day grading papers, planning lessons, serving on charitable committees, raising money for good causes, ensuring their three children completed homework and participated in extracurricular activities, and made a concerted effort to sit down to a family meal every evening. 

Our family did not go out to restaurants or fast food joints. We couldn’t afford it. All three of us learned early that it was expected that we work hard and learn the value of money. I worked in a hospital kitchen in junior high school and as a waitress ( before the term server was deemed proper). My brother scraped road kill off the pavements with his summer gig for the highway department.  My sister cleaned houses, mowed lawns at the cemetery and did odd jobs at a local pork processing plant. My dad taught summer school every year so we could afford a family vacation. 

It was instilled in us that the world owed us nothing. We understood we were privileged to live in the USA, which afforded us opportunities that people in other countries did not enjoy. 

Finding a job after graduating college was expected. Any job. Not just a job that paid a lot, gave us flexible hours or likelihood of promotion or personal fulfillment or prestige. Instead, it was expected that we would accept a job, near the bottom of the food chain, with enough income to pay rent & utilities, and learn how to be part of a team. Many of my colleagues of a similar cohort ended up in their careers because we needed a job and someone gave us a chance. Success or failure then depended in large part on how we played the game. 

Too many novice employees in recent years want it all immediately. They want money, recognition, flexibility, a work/ life balance, fulfillment, loan forgiveness and prosperity without putting in the time, hours, sweat equity, inconvenience and relationship building necessary to succeed. 

It is clear that society needs a reset. Children should learn early and often that life isn’t fair. There are winners and losers. That if you don’t pay your loan or mortgage you can lose your car and house. And that the quality of life for most Americans is exponentially better than in most other corners of the world. 

I know I am filled with gratitude for the lessons I learned from my parents.

No comments:

Post a Comment