Work is a Verb

Robert - Port Washington, New York
Entered on February 16, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: work
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I believe work is a verb. Always have and always will.

My father brought me a wooden shoe shine box when I was thirteen years old. “If you want to have money. You got to go to work,” he said. The box was filled with polishes, brushes and cloths. There was no guide book. He showed me how, pointed to the door and said ‘good luck.’

I was scarred that first day I carried my shoe shine box in Forest Hills, Queens, to a park that remains there today. I was afraid people would put me down for shining shoes. But, I saw it as work and put aside those thoughts. I was also afraid people would not give the time of day to a thirteen year old with a face full of acne.

Made twenty-one dollars that day. Fact was people were more interested in getting their shoes shined than looking at my pimples. “I did it, Dad. I made money.” He’s eighty-three now, but I still remember the smile on his face as though it were yesterday. “Now you know why it’s called work,” he said.

The shoe shine box gave way to a job delivering groceries. Then came putting together the Sunday newspapers, washing dishes, chopping vegetables, baking bread, driving a taxi cab, moving office furniture and busing tables—all before getting a real job.

Now, fifty-three years of age, got to say that work is still a verb and making money is

no easier than when I carried my shoe shine box. Don’t mean to toot my own horn, but a lot of people I see who make more money than me don’t really know the meaning of work. A cousin has noticed this, too. “He who sows in tears will one day reap in joy,” is his favorite line from the Bible. And this comes from someone who cleaned bathrooms

in the Twin Towers.

I wonder if the American Work Ethic is going to survive the downturn.

Many people I know still live as though the days of ten percent returns never stopped.

They call people to mow their lawns, rake their leaves, teach their sons how to swing a baseball bat, shoot a basketball and schedule someone to show their daughters how to kick a soccer ball.

Funny thing is, my father worked hard too. We only sat down as a family for dinner on the weekends, because he was never home early enough. But, you know what? He taught me how to hit a fastball and shoot a jump shoot.

Today is not like yesterday and tomorrow might never be the same either. Lay me off tomorrow and I’ll be shining shoes that afternoon. Not a problem. That’s why it’s called work.