We Americans not only like work; we celebrate it

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.


– Sam Ewing


Labor Day weekend reminds us that in America we take time off to celebrate going to work.

That’s OK with me because America has long been a land of opportunities – most of them missed – but that still doesn’t stop us from trying.

And striving.

And working.

In Europe they laugh at us not only because we don’t take monthlong vacations but also because we often bring our daily work home.

We don’t notice their snickering because we’re busy inventing something important or making something useful.

Besides, we joke about our long hours. We brag about them.

That singular American poet Robert Frost not only wrote of the opportunities of “the road not taken” but also once observed that in America, if you worked your eight-hour-a-day job reliably for a number of years, they would make you a boss and reward you by allowing you to work 12 hours a day.

America works. It always has, and we define ourselves by what we do.

But what if we did something else?

That’s really what I’m asking you to consider this Labor Day weekend.

What would you be?

I asked my wife once what job she would do if she didn’t do what she did.

If money, schedules, family responsibilities were off the table, what would she do?

She said something about going back into the legal field. Her college degree is in criminal justice, and she began her career working for a district attorney in west Georgia.

Having observed her perceptive interrogations, dogged persistence and righteous wrath, I have no doubt she’d be good at it.

Very good.

Just ask our son.

Of course, she asked me what I would do.

Well, I said. I like to read. I like to find out things. I like to organize.

“What can you do with that?” she asked.

“I guess,” I said thoughtfully, “I’d be a librarian.”

But not a shy librarian, I added.

“There would be no talking in my library. No one would be folding back page corners instead of using bookmarks. If you didn’t bring back your book on time, I would come to your house and demand its return.”

And people would give it to me, too.

Because if they didn’t, I’d turn them over to my wife for prosecution, and they wouldn’t want that to happen.

Just ask our son.