Purpose and Honor
August 28, 2005, started out as a regular Sunday morning. My sister, Iris, was visiting from California, and she had prepared a breakfast of scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, buttery grits, and French toast that melted in your mouth. After our feast, my family and I began dressing for church. However, news reports on television caused me to quickly realize that we should be packing to evacuate instead. Little did I know that in a matter of hours Hurricane Katrina would change our lives in ways that would be difficult to comprehend. If anything good can be said about Katrina, it would be that she brought out enormous acts of generosity and kindness. Perhaps most importantly, she brought out the value of people and their occupations.
So often prejudice allows us to look upon individuals who hold positions we see as being beneath us as second class citizens. I have found myself walking past the dishwashers, the housekeepers and the janitors as if they didn’t exist, failing to realize that these are, first and foremost, human beings worthy of dignity and respect. While some may perform menial tasks, they are nonetheless important in the grand scheme of our economy and personal comfort. Without their labor, we as a society could not function in the manner in which we have become accustomed.
At the height of the city’s crisis, the underpaid and under appreciated workers of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board stayed behind and risked their lives as the water rose. In the days and weeks following the hurricane, these employees worked tirelessly, often in twenty-four hour shifts with no adequate place to sleep or bathe, to rid New Orleans of its flood waters.
As I began the tasks of cleaning up what was left behind, I cried for the garbage collectors to return. The stench of the growing piles of debris in front of my house alone was intolerable. Once the ladies and gentlemen of Waste Management returned, I gladly met them with cheers and cold beverages as a meager sign of gratitude. At the same time, my heart ached just thinking about what they would endure during their shifts. While waiting on correspondences from FEMA and a SBA application, I certainly learned that mail delivery was a luxury, and I was never so glad to see the return of the fast food workers and the grocery store clerks. I simply could not bare the sight of another MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).
I believe there is honor in every occupation. If everyone in the world were doctors, lawyers, scientists or astronauts, there would be no one left to make the world beautiful. This brings to mind a quote I once heard by Marianne Williamson that included the phrase “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” Take pride in whatever it is you do. It is valued more than you can imagine.
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