Work is defined as an activity involving mental or physical effort to achieve a purpose or result. To work, or to toil or to labor is to engage in an activity with purpose. I have worked since my teens. I can remember looking for my first job full of excitement, it was a part of the right of passage to adulthood and a precursor to adult responsibilities. I can remember going to my first job as a cashier in a local food market. I bet most of you can remember that first job too, some more fondly than others.
Nothing in our society or culture can be maintained without work. Every task involves mental or physical effort in order to achieve any results at all. There is no progress, there is no way to better oneself without effort. There is no magic government program that transcends what we were born to do. We were born to work.
The Neanderthals worked to survive. They had no choice. If they put forth no effort, there was no food, there was no clothing or shelter, there was no help for the wounded or sick. If they made no effort then starvation, privation and disease would be their end. I imagine they had very little leisure time and vacations at the beach were not a thing.
Our society has, during my lifetime, rewarded work with leisure time. Family vacations to distant places are rewards for the time, effort and energy we put into our jobs, whatever those jobs are. The money we make for our effort, we use for the necessities of life in our society. We make house payments, we pay light bills, and buy groceries instead of using our time and effort to build those houses, securing our shelter and growing or hunting our food. The necessities of life haven’t changed over the history of our planet. We have just changed the way we obtain them. But in each and every iteration of society, work has been involved.
Sometime in the last few decades, leisure has increased in importance to us. We are by and far one of the wealthiest countries on the planet and we have more opportunity to spend our time on our own pursuits once we have secured our food, clothes and shelter than many others. Work has become a four letter word. Today, there is a labor shortage. Not because there are not enough people, but because not enough people want to work at the jobs available.
I was raised with a work ethic, I was taught that hard work is intrinsically virtuous and worthy. I was taught that laziness was not acceptable and that if there was a job to do, I was not above doing it. Somehow that ideal has been lost to many and in the losing of it a pillar of our culture and society is crumbling. Without work nothing can be maintained or accomplished. Without some form of personal commitment to work, a person cannot rise above their circumstances and better themselves. The idea that someone will come and lift you up is a nice fairy tale with little substance.
As we celebrate this Labor Day Weekend, it would behoove us to remember why we work and how important work is to us as a people. We thrive when we have purpose. We are better people when we apply ourselves. When we consistently exert mental and physical effort we are wiser, healthier people.