I was going to spend my post-Thanksgiving pig-out (as of this moment, I’m grateful for sweat pants) catching up on some blogs I should have written days ago. Instead, I started watching TLC’s Undercover Boss marathon and decided to write something entirely different. You all know how the show works – a CEO or a representative of a major corporation goes undercover to see what it’s like to work as some of the employees, then either fix problems they’ve found or reward the employees who’ve gone above and beyond. What touched me during this marathon were the stories of these employees, the folks who go to work every day, for hourly wages and still manage to have the best attitudes about their work and their lives. A couple of them brought me to tears. When I heard what they’d been through or are still going through, I found myself in awe of their spirit.
It also made me think about the people who went to work today, the ones who left their families and their Thanksgiving feasts to stand behind cash registers and stock shelves for the onslaught of holiday shoppers. Black Friday, for many retailers, has turned into Black Thursday as the big box stores try to beat one another in the race for a bigger share of those Christmas dollars. There’s been some controversy about it, and some shoppers are boycotting the stores which have entered the race. I’m not sure which side of the argument I’m on. I imagine, given the economy, that some employees are happy for the extra hours and money. On the other hand, there are some who have no choice. You either work or you face being unemployed.
It’s a tough world out there for the hourly worker. Most of them are part-time, with no benefits, no vacation days and no sick time. They show up and they get paid, and vice versa. I’ve only worked at two jobs on an hourly basis. One of them was at Disney World in Orlando, where I operated one of the boats at Epcot. It was also the only job I managed to get myself fired from. I took the job because I was bit bored and thought it would be fun to work at the happiest place on Earth, not to mention the free passes to the theme parks that seemed to be the only perk. Not to take away from the magic of the Mouse House, but what takes place behind the scenes is not all that happy or magical. I found out what it was like to work for a company whose only interest was feeding the bottom line. Employees work long hours, often times outside of their job descriptions and with schedules that make little or no sense, making any kind of personal planning a complete nightmare. But the people I worked with did what they were told and did so with the requisite smiles and good cheer that visitors to Disney expect.
What I did take away from that job was the character and dedication of those very good people, the ones who really make the magic so that guests can leave with only the best of memories. I also came away with a new-found respect for all of the people who work at what many consider to be menial jobs. They’re not invisible to me any more. I try to smile and say hello to them when I’m making my purchases at WalMart or Target or Kroger. I think they appreciate it – at least, I hope they do because I now appreciate their efforts. Among the many things I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving – my family, my friends, my dogs, my home and a refrigerator full of leftovers – I’m also grateful for those who labor, sometimes behind the scenes, to make our lives easier and better. I hope, as you venture out over the next 26 days, that you’ll take the time to notice them, too – maybe even thank them for making sure your favorite gift was on the store shelf.
To all of you, my readers and my friends, I hope your Thanksgiving was everything you wanted it to be. I know mine was.