What’s wrong with working?

Published 7:19 am Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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I just got back from a short trip to South Carolina.  During the entire trip, I was struck by how many desperate “help wanted” signs screamed through windows.

While I was there, I went to a Kroger to buy a few things.  When I got ready to check out, I found myself in the longest self-checkout line I’d ever seen. There had to be thirty people ahead of me. When the manager saw that I had nothing that had to be weighed, he pulled me out of the line.  As he walked me upfront he explained that six employees had called out that day and that every one of them had just received a stimulus check.  I’ve never seen a manager so angry.  He checked me out, sent me on my way, but he advised me—told me, really—not to come back that night and to not come at all tomorrow.

I stopped at an IHOP for pancakes and coffee.  When we went inside, we found out that the manager was having to seat people,  and that they had only one waitress and one cook.   A group left as I was coming in, and when I left the staff had not been able to spare enough time to buss their table.

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Why? They said that they couldn’t get anyone to come to work.

I stopped at a McDonald’s in Alexander City last Saturday.  While I was ordering my Diet Coke, I noticed a large three-part cardboard sign on a table.   One of the weary managers looked up from her laptop to ask if I knew anyone who needed a job. And she said that they pay more than minimum wage.  The problem is that they still couldn’t compete with the free money the government was giving away.  They were so hard up for employees that they were offering signing bonuses.  I thought that professional athletes got signing bonuses.  Not anymore—now McDonald’s offers them. An entry-level employee who stayed ninety days got a $250.00 signing bonus;  a shift manager could get a $500.00 signing bonus, and an assistant manager could get a $1,000.00 signing bonus.

The local stories are no better.  I’ve heard about several businesses that had to be shuttered for all or part of a day because they could not get workers to come in.  A locally famous hamburger and hot dog place in LaGrange closed for a day when they couldn’t get employees to come to work.

Joe Wells is the manager at our local McDonald’s and a better fellow you’ll never meet. I’ve had friends who worked for him, and they say good things about him. Joe can’t find enough employees.

Where is all of this coming from?

I don’t think it takes a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics to understand that it is easier to wait for the mail to run so you can grab and cash your stimulus check than it is to go to work. And when unemployment compensation pays better than some jobs pay, why work? 

But is that good for anyone in the long run?

I came from mill people, and most of you do, too. You remember that group—they lived through the Depression, they fought and won World War II, they were glad just to have a job, they worked hard, and they were too proud to take a handout from the government.  It seems that we’ve replaced that generation with people who don’t think it a good thing that they fend for themselves, who don’t have the pride of insinuating craftsmanship into whatever job they have, who don’t take pride in being self-sufficient. 

A fellow I know named Greg Cook once had a job in fast food.  His wife recently posted an old photo of him in his Wendy’s outfit—white pants, a white and blue vertically-striped shirt, and a matching hat.  His wife, Kim, also worked jobs that some would consider menial—she worked as a page at the local library to pay for band trips, church trips, and to save up enough money to pay $350.00 for a 1963 Ford Galaxie. 

I don’t think that working in fast food hurts either of them. Greg went on to graduate with high honors from Duke University.  He then graduated with high honors from Harvard Law School. He is now running for the Alabama Supreme Court.  I know him—he’s a good guy.

Paul was one of the smartest men in the new testament.  Raised with the best possible education, he knew a thing or two.  After he was converted he wrote on many things, including work, about which he said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Maybe we should listen to Paul, get jobs, and take great pride in doing them.

What a world that would be.