I often wondered what Labor Day was as a kid, what did I care, I got time off from school was my thinking. As I got older I began to understand the reasoning behind the three-day weekend. Other then the unofficial end-of-summer, this day was a chance to stop and celebrate the everyday heroes of this country. This country was not built by the Rockefellers or the Carnegies, it was built on the backs of the everyday laborer. These are the people that sacrifice for their families and their country to work as a team, to build or do something great. So as I take pause today to recognize this it makes me think of where I got my work ethic.
Unequivocally it was from my dad. My dad was not necessarily a laborer; he was a well-educated man graduating as an aeronautical engineer from Penn State. But he worked hard to be where he was and he always instilled in me the virtue of hard work as well as smart work. He did this not so much by telling me, although he did that as well, but by showing me. Getting up early everyday and working to achieve a worthy goal with a worthy team showed this to me. He almost never called in sick and ended up loyally working with one company almost his entire career. As a culture we worship our sports and movie stars, heck even some of us worship our politicians, but it’s the common man, men like my father who command our respect. It is these tireless men and women that labor & sacrifice daily to achieve a quality of life for their own family who we admire and celebrate today.
Because of what I witnessed my work ethic was strong from a very young age. My first job was as a paperboy at 12 years old. I had arguably one of the hardest paper routs in San Diego due to the volume and hilly terrain. I threw the San Diego Union newspaper to 120 homes every single morning starting at 5am. I never took a day off, not even for Christmas.
To get my second job I lied about my age and was paid under the table at an Italian restaurant washing dishes at the age of 14. You talk about hard work. I kept in the restaurant business for many years laboring hard and working many long hours. I then moved into sales within the industry and got a taste of how life is working on 100% commission.
Finally, I landed here at O’Connor (I married the [then] bosses daughter) and the hard work did not stop. I wasn’t given any special treatment, believe me. I was on-call to assist with transfers of the deceased at night. Some nights getting 2-3 calls in the middle of the night and then having to wake up (if I went to sleep at all) to work a double shift from 8am to 9pm the next day.
But, through all of this I was equipped and trained to handle the privilege of helping families that were experiencing a death. A year I became a licensed funeral director and my life changed forever.
This isn’t an easy job, as you can imagine, working with grieving people is sad and difficult. In the beginning I sometimes wondered if this really was my final destination. But as I began to experience the fulfillment that came from serving and creating a meaningful and healing event that helped people with their grief – I realized that this was it. As weird as it sounds, this is the most rewarding of all my jobs. To be able to come along side people and help them through what is the most difficult journey of their life is an honor and to this day it’s not something I take lightly.
22 years later I still think back and appreciate all I have learned from my co-laborers, we have become family, and I’m so blessed to be with them on a daily basis. Thank you Dad and thank you to all of the great American laborers that have made this country great, past, present and future. Happy Labor Day!