This I Believe

Heather - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Entered on November 18, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Don’t Look Down on the Garbage Man

I am a sales associate and a substitute teacher, but outside of my titles I’m just an employee working hard to earn each dollar. Still, I am treated differently according to the status I hold at each particular moment. When I teach, I am given respect and looked up to for guidance by students and peers. Then I go to the Hallmark store where I stock and sell merchandise 25 hours a week and am treated much differently. Customers, many who are teachers and treat me as their equal during the day, treat me as if I am not a necessary member of society when I am earning my wages at Hallmark. Sadly, in today’s workforce, it is common for job status to determine the treatment received by others.

In fact, just the other day, a teacher came into Hallmark, searching for a gift for her principal, and as I rang her out at the register she asked, “How long have you been working here?” “About two years,” I responded then she gave me a look as if I were less than human. As she left, she stated with a superior tone, “Don’t worry, everyone has to start somewhere. You’ll get a real job soon enough.” Maybe she wasn’t as bad as she seemed. Maybe she was just concerned, but, whatever the case was, I didn’t like it. I knew she was a perfect example of how people view jobs like retail, or any employment not in need of a college education, as mediocre when compared to occupations requiring a higher degree of learning.

The next day I was a substitute teacher for Princess Anne Elementary School. There, many teachers, similar to the woman I helped at Hallmark the day before, greeted me as a co-worker and included me in conversation. We discussed a fire drill happening that day, where recess was to be held, and then we went off to work. After this small, but significant, conversation I couldn’t help but compare these women to the teacher I waited on the day before. Why was my job at hallmark viewed as inferior to substitute teaching?

I won’t be a sales associate forever, but my co-workers at Hallmark have established their permanent job titles as sales associates and I feel there is nothing wrong with that, but it seems other people do. If you’re paying the bills and financially providing for your family then why do people insist on judging others according to occupations? More and more I am seeing how unfair people are to others because of their career decisions.

For example, even if a garbage man is also a part-time deliveryman and umpire, he is seen as less of a person than a well-educated college professor. Just because some people can afford college in order to obtain jobs more affectionately looked at by the public, doesn’t mean those in well-liked positions are any better than the honest, hard-working man saving every last dime to feed his family. My situation may seem small compared to ones like these, but it is still an accurate example of how the public looks down on people, like cashiers, and looks up to people like educators. This view needs to change, because where would the lawyers and the doctors be without the mailman or those involved in waste management. Every occupation is as important as the next and all are needed elements for our world to run.