There’s a tombstone in a local cemetery that we walk by nearly every day. I look at it nearly every time we pass and it always makes me smile. Below the name and the dates of his lifespan are the words Grade A Milkman. All I can think is what great pride this man took in his job before he passed away at an early age. It reminds me of a post from several years back that I ran for the Labor Day weekend. It fits here for this Grade A Milkman.
A little postscript: After years of walking by this grave, a bit of research revealed that this fellow was my mother’s 3rd cousin. Makes me smile even a little more.
Here’s the post from back in 2013:
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Another Labor Day weekend is here. On this blog in the past I have bemoaned how the general public has forgot how much it owes to the labor movement, how the middle class that was the pride of this country during the middle of the last century was a direct result of hard fought gains from workers who banded together and stood against social injustice. But today I just want to speak briefly about taking pride in one’s job, the same sentiment reflected in the quote above from Martin Luther King, Jr.
When I was a waiter in a pancake house, even after I had started showing my work in several galleries, I was always a waiter first when I was at my job. Never a painter-slash-waiter, a title which served no purpose. Circumstances had put me in this place at this time and I had determined that if I had to be there I would give it my complete attention and effort. I would make it my own. If I disliked it so much that it made me miserable, I would do something about changing my job when my day there was done and the task before me was complete.
But while I was there, I treated it as though it were my destiny because, who knew, maybe it was. I took great pride in being good at that job and some other jobs that I’ve done that could be classified as menial. What was the cost in doing this? If I had to be there then I would rather be recognized for my excellence than for my displayed misery.
Simply put, take pride in the task before you, however menial you see it. Find pride in the toil and treat it as your destiny because, in that very moment, it is.
Have a great Labor Day weekend and remember what the day stands for.