After living in rough and tumble New York where pot holes in parts of Brooklyn will never be filled until a small child gets swallowed up, I find things in my cute little California town a bit silly. Often we will be at a stop light and see about a dozen men working hard on fixing not a pot hole, but making the median more pretty. Digging, pounding nails in the concrete, and filling the void with pretty shaped bricks. Eventually 12 more people have the job of filling some of the space with trees and pretty flowers. Maybe even some bird baths and water fall rock gardens. Although it seems to me wasted community embellishment, it's good for people to have work.
My preschooler always asks what the men are doing and admires the tool belts. We talk about what they are doing as sweat drips from their heads and their hands continue to callous. We watch from an air conditioned car that will probably never leave us stranded and leads us into a drive-through where we are handed food to eat in our air conditioned home or leisurely at the park. Those are times I am always tempted to stop by the median again and hand out Whoppers and Otter Pops.
It's also times like that I think about the dignity it takes a man to do a job like that. To do something physical with his hands to make money for himself and/or family. I think about the way we speak of this man I want to teach my son to notice him and appreciate him and his work.
And then I wonder if he will figure out on his own that it's not necessarily a desirable job to have, even with the cool tool belt. What age will he be when he starts to think about matching his skills and interests to a future job and relate it to what kind of income it merits. And how will I present this information to him? If he is really good at being a tattoo artist, for example, and has this talent to develop I want him to find every and any way to learn it better and improve himself to do it the best he possibly can. Not just so he can be happy in his chosen career, but so he can be marketable in his profession and provide the best he can for his family.
My step dad wasn't the most awesome person I have ever met. But something about his stories of digging ditches and framing homes in the Arizona summers along with the constant reminder of him regretting his lack of education resonated with me as a kid.