Labor Day is this weekend, and somehow it always reminds me of my Dad. Mostly from an experience I had that I’ll tell you about in a moment. But first let me quickly share some things about my Pop.
An immigrant, my father arrived from what was then Yugoslavia ‘on the boat’ at the age of 20. He literally had nothing; but with the help of a family member who’d come to the States earlier, he worked hard, started his own business (side-by-side with my mother) and eventually became a successful businessman (they were truly the American Dream personified).
A number of people worked for Mom and Dad over the years. They always treated their employees with respect while holding them to a high standard of professionalism and performance. They were principled, honest, no-nonsense straight shooters; and, with a couple of exceptions (mostly the few they had to fire), they were loved and revered by those who worked for them.
Perhaps it was his immigrant background or his humble beginnings here in the US, but Dad was always on the side of the little guy, always for the workingmen and women of this country. That experience I mentioned earlier was one of which I still have a vivid memory: Walking hand-in-hand with my father through some sort of municipal building (I was so young and small that I had to really stretch to reach his hand) where he had done some routine errand, like renewing his driver’s license or some such thing. As we were leaving the building, we passed a janitor who was mopping the foyer. Dad tipped his hat to him (men still routinely wore fedoras at the time) and said ‘Good afternoon, sir.” Then, as we passed through the door on our way out, my father turned to me and said softly, “Remember. There is dignity in all work.”
That simple statement stuck with me throughout my life. And it has helped me immensely. When I was just getting started as a performing artist, it helped me to accept whatever menial work I needed to take to support myself while pursuing my dream. It has compelled me to treat those in service positions (waiters, store clerks, receptionists, car wash attendants, whatever) with dignity and respect. And it gave me a deep appreciation for anyone who’s out there trying to make a living. That’s a hard thing for a lot of people these days, at least the ones who are out of work and would desperately like to have a job. And it’s also extremely challenging for those who work hard at low paying positions (like the poor workers who toil at Papa John’s Pizza for minimum wage and no benefits; shame on its mulit-billionaire owner, John Schnatter, who deliberately cut his employees’ hours so he could avoid providing them with basic health care . . really?! OK, sorry, there I go getting all feisty on you again.)
So, with Labor Day looming, I’d like to tip my hat to all of us out there who are the workers of America. And also to those who are unemployed through no fault or desire of their own. I wish you all a safe and restful Labor Day holiday.
Speaking of work, we’ve got two hardworking visiting musical acts on eTown this week (did you notice that dazzling transition there?):
The New York-based band Donna the Buffalo joins us; the group is constantly out on the road and with good reason: Their fans love them and can’t get enough of them. Their good-time, jam band sound has its base in traditional mountain music, infused with elements of Cajun/zydeco, rock, folk, reggae, and country. Fun stuff.
Talented, full-time touring musician and prolific songwriter Stephen Kellogg will also be with us (one of THE nicest guys around, an extremely gifted artist . . and SO fun to sing with!).
Plus, we’ll share the story of a retired North Carolina couple who are working hard to provide food for the hungry in their community.
It’s a fitting Labor Day combo.
And check out the videos from the show below.