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How do you feel about your job? Do you spring out of bed, looking forward to work? Or, is your job a soul-destroying monotony of pure drudgery, or somewhere in between?

I loved that old song, “Sixteen Tons”. It was so sad, but a true picture of a period in our history in many areas of the country. When you think of the physical labor that went on day-in and day-out in the past: to drive a wagon west over the mountains and through rivers; to clear land for farming, and plow acres with just an ox; to build railways, roads, tunnels; to mine coal an other minerals; — you get an appreciation for how lucky we are to have choices about what kind of work we do.

We’ve long passed the survival, pioneering mentality, and most of our jobs are physically much easier now, but require more education to perform. Living in an affluent area, I marvel though at the tasks that still must be done and who does them. I watch teams of men work in the summer sun roofing new houses that cost more than they’ll earn in 10-20 years. I watch the trash collectors hanging on to the backs of trucks, rain, shine, or on humid August days, and wonder how they hold on, literally and physically. Tarring roads in the summer must be the closest to our vision of hell. As we race off to our air-conditioned cars to our air-conditioned offices, people are still out their doing hard manual labor to provide others with the necessities and the luxuries. Widespread education over the past century has made a big difference in the kinds of jobs people can do, as the changing economy has created jobs that were never even envisioned 100 years ago.

About a year ago a bridge over a highway just a stone’s throw from our house was being widened and renewed, a lane being added for walkers and bikers, and a higher fence being installed. Those guys worked even on Saturdays sometimes to meet the May 31, 2013 deadline, and they did, just in time. The worked nearly a year with cars whizzing by one lane at a time. They worked in first hot then bone-chilling temperatures, stopping only when it was too cold to pour concrete or an inspection needed to be done before they could proceed. Their teamwork and perseverance was inspiring. The physical demands of a job like that are more than I can imagine.

I’m a retired teacher, and I like schools. They are basically happy, positive, safe places. You get to talk to interesting people all day, even if some of them are very small people. Yes, I looked forward to going to work; as with all people, it is hard to fit all personal activities into weekends and evenings, but that’s what most industrious adults do. I’m proud that I worked for good grades in school and had lots of activities with friends. I’m grateful that my family sent me to college, that my husband earned enough to pay for my M. Ed. degree (I was a stay-at-home mom). I worked at three fine, but different, schools during my 17 year career in education and came away with the satisfaction that I had done my best and enjoyed myself.

There are harder ways to earn money.