I was watching an episode of “Shark Tank” on television, specifically Donny McCall's “Invis-A-Rack” proposal to distribute collapsible pickup racks from his hometown, Sparta, North Carolina. One of the Sharks, Robert Herjavec, stated that he is the son of a factory worker, a Croatian immigrant. Robert's dad told him that the thing he was most proud of was securing his first job in the United States, even though the job involved sweeping the floors of a factory.
I immediately recalled my own personal job experience of taking a job in Yuma, Arizona as a civil engineer and shortly thereafter as Assistant City Engineer. Then I moved my family to Colorado Springs, Colorado to take a job as Assistant City Engineer. It was in that job that, for over five years, I learned the most about civil engineering. I then made a conscious decision to abandon my original career path of City Engineer/Public Works Director/City Manager. Instead, I took a job in the private sector with the Falkirk Mining Company where I enjoyed applying my talents to various engineering challenges over a period of 15 years before taking an early retirement and changing my focus to airport planning, design and construction with Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson. My decision to abandon my management career path for challenging design and construction tasks had to do with the dignity of work. I chose the enjoyment of solving engineering problems over the more lucrative management of people.
As I recalled these personal experiences, I suddenly became cognizant of the foundations for my views on the roles of government and society. Society almost always supports the dignity of human beings through meaningful work, the opportunity to become excellent at whatever a person decides to do, and the intense satisfaction in performing tasks that initially seemed impossible. Barbers, masseuses, butchers, bakers and the like work hard in providing a tangible service or product, such as a haircut, a massage, a steak or a wedding cake. The dignity of work cannot be discounted, even by the “slick skimmers” that profit as unproductive middlemen in the political, banking, legal, real estate, tax preparation, and other occupations that neither provide a useful product nor a valuable service. It should not surprise us to find out that politicians, bankers, lawyers (over half of politicians), realtors, tax preparers, and the rest of the skimmers are all in cahoots with one another.
Government, on the other hand, punishes bad behavior. At least it should if it is to satisfy its originally intended role to counter the evil tendencies of mankind. Government as a benefactor is largely an illusion. Government involuntarily takes from certain elements of society (some would even call it thievery) in order to re-distribute to other elements of society. To the extent that government distributes unearned rewards, it removes the individual's dignity that normally arises out of hard work.
The unearned forgiveness or “grace” offered freely by Christ in dying for our sins stands in stark contrast to the “gifts” of government that demand our votes in return. Voting for “stuff” for ourselves is perhaps the least dignified act of a human being… exceeded perhaps only by the act of stealing from some to help others.
So as young people consider a profession, I hope they will consider the fulfillment that comes from honest hard work and avoid “get-rich quick” schemes that hurt others and, more importantly, extract our dignity. I hope they will embrace the equation of a success, “Love = Work + Courage”.