Is Our Work Ethic Vanishing? - Random Reasonings

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Is Our Work Ethic Vanishing?

The best crab cakes I’ve ever had are made and served at a small upscale restaurant called Lenoras in the tiny town of Perryopolis south of Pittsburgh, PA. Not a place indigenous to crabs.

Lenora, the owner, is the chef whose menu hasn’t changed in years. And it shouldn’t. Everything on it is made to absolute perfection.

A few weeks ago my husband and I had dinner at Lenoras and of course I had the crab cakes. Lenora always comes out and chats with her dinner guests and when she did this time I thought she looked very tired. We asked her “How are things going for you?”

She told us it is getting difficult to stay in business. Lenoras is also a B&B. She can’t find help … help for the inn or the restaurant, and is having to do more and more on her own.

A few days ago we stayed at a hotel in Georgia. My husband and I arrived around 3:30, check in was anytime after 3. We were tired … had been driving since 8:30 that morning on Interstates with very heavy traffic.

When I went to check in there was no one at the front desk. I peeked into the office behind the check-in; no one there either. So I stood at the front desk and waited. A couple minutes later another guest came to check in and we chatted until someone finally showed up.

That young woman was the only person working to receive, check in, and check out guests – in addition to many other duties. She apologized for making us wait, then informed me I couldn’t check in because the room wasn’t ready.

She suggested we go to a nearby restaurant, get something to eat, and come back later when the room should be ready, and explained that they have only 2 people to do all the housekeeping chores (it is a 4-story hotel) and they are doing the best they can. They can’t find people to hire.

Last evening we went out with friends to a favorite restaurant in Port St. Joe. Got seated right away. Had our drink order taken right away. The drinks came quickly, and then we waited and waited for what seemed a very long time before anyone came to take our order.

As we looked around we realized there were only two wait staff for the entire restaurant and they were hustling as fast as they could. My friend said “I heard they can’t get help.” All the restaurants here on the Forgotten Coast are in the same dilemma, they can’t find people to hire.

It’s a dilemma facing all types of businesses all across our country. And it makes me wonder, “What ever happened to the work ethic that used to define America?”

We used to be the country of choice because here there is opportunity.

If you worked hard here, you could have a better life. You could take advantage of opportunities. You could pursue your dreams. You had the freedom to make your life be what you wanted. No guarantees, of course. There never are. But for people willing to work there is always opportunity.

It’s a lesson I learned at my first job after college. Frequently there would be new projects to be done that didn’t fall under the job description of any employees. Every time that kind of opportunity presented itself I would say, “Sure, I can do that!” And then I’d get it done. Most employees, however, took the attitude of “that’s not my job.”

I worked at that company for 13 years. During those years I was promoted 4 times, while other employees got passed over for promotions. All because I took the “can do” attitude.

The spirit to achieve, the desire to be productive, the pride in being self-sufficient, and the need to have a meaningful life are all part of the fabric of America.

It seems as if that fabric could be unraveling before our eyes.

Is it happening because the government has been paying people to not work? Many people think it is. The policy that started in 2020 as a response to Covid was a much-needed safety net when mandatory lock downs closed businesses. But it continued even though businesses reopened.

In times past our government encouraged people to work. In the 1930s President Roosevelt created the WPA (Work Projects Administration) that created jobs for millions who were out of work. When America entered WWII and men of working age were away fighting in the war, the government created Rosie the Riveter as an ad campaign to encourage women to take over the vacant jobs and keep America working.

Why did our government go from encouraging people to work to rewarding them for not working?

This inability for businesses to get employees worries me, and I usually don’t worry about much. It worries me because it signals a shift of America as the land of opportunity to an America of complacency. Are we changing from a country of productivity to a country of entitlements?

It makes me wonder, “What more is yet to come?”

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Thomas Edison

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