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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Sunday, March 25 2001

Work ethics

What is a work ethic? Do coalminers and their descendants have a better one than average? In the novel about coalminers in Wales, How Green Was My Valley, the young protagonist can't wait until he can jettison school and go into the mines at about age 14. My dad worked in a couple of factories (bricks in Patton and tires in Akron) for a few years and ended up choosing the coal mines. But he instilled in all of his sons the sense that that was the worst choice they could make. "Be a school teacher," he came closest to saying, and brother Gary, I often think, probably would have become a teacher, had he survived. I've done lots of teaching, but never as a fulltime vocation and not with a degree in education. Brother Bob has probably had two dozen jobs, and ended up a successful businessman in a northern California small town before retirement, but never considered the mines. Even his short stint in the Johnstown mills wasn't for him. Brother Tom was a radio and television technician and I have been, mostly, an editor/writer.

I've heard it said that some big companies are afraid of Western Pennsylvanians' work ethic. The point is that the work ethic there is dominated by expectations of union benefits and a history of fighting to get them through strikes. On the other hand, my impression is (correct me if I'm wrong, please) that unionized supermarkets (A&P and Acme) were competed out of the Western Pennsylvania market by unorganized independents whereas, in white collar high-tech California, all the supermarkets are unionized (by way of ironic comparison).

I've also read that Japanese economists refer to Americans as having a "Calvinist work ethic." Having been dedicated to Calvinism for most of my adult life myself (though no longer, but still empathetic), I can get around that concept. The basic point of "Calvinist work ethic" is that one should approach whatever work he does as a divine imperative or should undertake it as a calling of God. Therefore, give it your best. It's based on New Testament teachings like the parable of the talents and a long tradition on "stewardship" in the churches. In this work ethic, any work that's morally acceptable is regarded as a blessing. In some other "ethics," the arguments say, any work other than direct service of God through church ministry or monasticism is a secondary choice. Such jobs may even be curses or working out of the curse on Adam and Eve. If work is sorrow, maybe it's okay—certainly understandable—to drink away your sorrow after quitting time.

What thoughts?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Very punny

1. Two vultures board an airplane, each carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at them and says, "I'm sorry, gentlemen, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

2. Did you hear that NASA recently put a bunch of Holsteins into low earth orbit? They called it the herd shot 'round the world.

3. Two boll weevils grew up in South Carolina. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.

Sent by John Sartell

Lenten thought

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood
From Thy riven side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure—
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

—Evangelical hymn

Sent by Nick Needham

Lenten thoughts (i.e., pertaining to repentance and spiritual growth, from any faith-community perspective) are solicited from readers.

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