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Day Labor; Witnessing the Human Spirit

Every life takes twists and turns. Over the course of a lifetime we might even experience both feast and famine. I guess my opinion is that it’s important to understand how to handle each, and that’s based upon personal experience.

I don’t know if you have ever driven by an employment center or construction site and noticed several men standing around looking hopeful. Generally they have on their work boots and sturdy jeans or rugged khakis. Some look more presentable than others but all look intent on working that day. That’s what is generally called a day labor pool. Those that are lucky enough to be tapped are expected to work a solid eight hour day and are paid on the spot at the end of that day. Generally the work might be considered hard labor, although sometimes there are skilled labor opportunities in and around carpentry or perhaps landscaping.

One might tend to think of those men as bottom dwellers who don’t have the ambition to seek real and regular jobs. I might have even thought that at some point. But my opinion rapidly changed when I found myself in that labor pool. I remember vividly sitting on a hard concrete floor in a warehouse setting waiting for a foreman to come by and arbitrarily choose a work crew. If I was lucky and selected we headed off to a work site and undertook the often back breaking work.

Of course I had the opportunity to talk with some of those men while waiting to be selected. I soon discovered that many of these rough-hewn men were family men trying very hard to make ends meet until they could find regular work. Most were part of the blue collar work force and therefor well suited to the hard days’ work ahead of them. As in my case, however, many were relatively well educated young guys who hadn’t quite mapped the course for their lives. Obviously there were other guys who simply needed a “grub stake” or beer money but that didn’t seem to be the norm.

I didn’t have to do day labor for long. I had resumes out, and after flipping burgers for a bit, found a job requiring a coat and tie. But doing day labor and mingling with those hard working men taught me a lesson about human nature. Those men often had families and mouths to feed. They weren’t about to default on their real or implied promise to provide for those families even at the risk of some dignity. I gained a lot of respect for my fellow man in that setting and have been careful to try to manage success as well as those men managed tough times.

Feast or famine, it ends up being so important how we view life, our promises and commitments and our place in this universe. I think I really learned about equality and the human spirit sitting on that floor.

Just sayin.