“No one wants to work anymore. They just want to draw unemployment or cash their stimulus checks,” the guy fixing my garage door shook his head disgustedly. His comment was in response to me saying I was having trouble finding someone to pour a cement pad in my back yard. The garage door guy was young and strong with dark brown hair. Why did he act like such a grouchy old man railing about shiftless people?
Watching him poke and pull at the hinges of our garage door I wondered whether he’d cashed his stimulus check yet—and what he did with it.
Did he rip it up and throw it in the garbage—or did he go out and buy some chrome attachment to trick out his motorcycle with?
Apparently, my garage door friend is unaware that money isn’t the only reason people work. Despite being flooded with money, over two-thirds of million dollar lottery winners still want to keep their jobs according to www.stat.berkeley.edu. Studs Terkel said in his oral history, Working, that “Work…is a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread…” Many of us work not just to pay the bills, but because it gives our lives purpose.
Maybe my garage guy was angry because he’d seen all the headlines about thousands of unfilled job openings this spring. Job vacancies soared to over 15 million according to NBC news, much more than pre-pandemic levels.
It’s being called a vaccination job boom because vaccinations are making it safe to go back in the workplace again.
This month The Guardian reported that people might not be scrambling to fill these new jobs because, well, they just don’t feel like scrambling. Though employment opportunities have quickly sprung up, many of us are still trying to recover from the chaos of Covid.
Covid’s impact on our working lives cannot be understated. This past year uncertainty was the new normal. Some people were laid off or lost their jobs entirely. Others had to find new ways to work. Though my adult children managed to stay employed throughout the pandemic, they still had pandemic work challenges. My son-in-law, who’s an engineer, had to move his office home, and like many others, watch the kids or the dog while he worked at his computer. One day I asked him how it was going, and he told me, “It’s okay, but I miss my colleagues at work.” My son, who’s a teacher, didn’t know from one week to the next whether he’d be back in his classroom, or if he’d have to Zoom lessons to his students. In the middle of the school year he told me he was temporarily “out of work.” The school district abruptly announced an extended winter break due to Covid.
Though employment (or lack thereof) was a traumatizing experience for some this winter, others were grateful to have more time and space to reconsider job and career goals. My nephew Andy is a very different young man compared to the garage door guy.
Andy’s not lazy or money-grubbing, but his minimum-wage, pizza delivery job was a dead end—and he knew it.
This past Covid year Andy was able to finish up some college course work online. He texted our family a picture of a letter he’d just got in the mail:
“Dear Bronco Nurse, Congratulations you have been granted conditional acceptance into the Nursing Program at Boise State University beginning Fall, 2021.”
Now that I think about it, the garage door repairman’s comments may have been politically driven, he was so harsh and judgmental. Really though, most things in life aren’t about politics—gainful employment not only has to do with making a decent living, but also making your life happy and fulfilled.