Thursday, January 12, 2012

Celebrating the Skilled

One of my favorite television shows is "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel. For those unfamiliar with this program, it centers on a fellow named Mike Rowe who travels the country attempting to do jobs that most people would find uncomfortable. He's worked with farmers, steel workers, sanitation crews, and more. From a crab boat in the Bering Sea to a gator farm in the Southern US, he's been everywhere. Heck, he's even been to Pennsylvania a number of times. It's very interesting show, that's for sure.

Recently, I found a video, from 2008, of Mike Rowe speaking at a technology summit in Silicon Valley. Much of his presentation was spent discussing a very unsavory job that he had to perform, but his final message really harmonized with me. You see, during all of these jobs, Mr. Rowe had ingrained upon him the value of a hard day's work. Our society seems to have decided that any job that requires physical labor is disliked at best and menial at worst. Very few individuals wake up in the morning and say to themselves "I want to shovel for a living." But, without individuals willing to perform that work, our world would crumble. Take a watch... 

In DeMolay (and Freemasonry) we have men and women from all different walks of live. There are technology guru's like "Dad" Greg Schaeffer (Senior Project Lead at IBM), design wizards like "Dad" Rodney Boyce (owner of Square Peg Design) management professionals like "Dad" Dennis Snedden (professional speaker and consultant), and most importantly tradesman like "Dad" Mike Desalis (plumber) and "Dad" Mike Nace (carpenter.) While we tend to idolize those people who work with technology or their mind, there is something to be said for a man who is skilled in a trade. It can take just as much brain power to properly measure and construct timber for a home, or to create precision finished carpentry that is both beautiful to look at, and fully functional, as it does to design an attractive corporate logo.

My own father spent most of  his life as a laborer. He worked on a road crew for a local municipality. He toiled in the hot sun, shoveling burning asphalt onto road surfaces so that others would have a safe and comfortable ride to where they are going. My maternal grandfather was an operating engineer (a fancy term for a man who runs heavy equipment.) He helped to erect Kinzua Dam in Warren County, PA. That dam holds back the Allegheny River which in turn keeps downtown Pittsburgh from flooding. My paternal grandfather was the manager of a cemetery, where he helped to dig hundreds of graves, many by hand. I'm the first generation in my family to not have to engage in manual labor to make a living, but every day I count my blessings in that regard. It was thanks to the manual and physical labor of previous generations that I can have the job I have today. 

All too often we are quick to talk to our high school age members about the importance of college and an education, while completely ignoring skilled trades as an option. No, it's not glamorous to be a steam-fitter, plumber, or construction worker. However, a man can still make a good and responsible living in those and similar professions. Just ask the thousands of iron workers still employed around the Commonwealth.

As usual, I'm sure you are asking yourself "... what does this have to do with DeMolay?" Our organization was founded by men who knew the value of a hard day's work and who weren't afraid of a little physical labor. Let's make sure to show our members the importance of men in all fields and remind them that while college may not be for everyone, there are still many viable and respectable fields of service for a man to be employed in.

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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