I bet like most working adults around the world, you have a big red circle on your calendar round the first day of May and are busy planning all the things you can possibly cram into the one day holiday that it assures.
Last year I was certainly among the group of people who impatiently ticked off the hours at work while pretending to look busy on the desk and throwing evil glances at the boss whenever he passed by with a warning scowl that said, “don’t you dare give me any more work, Labor day is tomorrow and I intend to enjoy it!” But something happened to me a few months ago that changed my attitude and made me realise there was more to Labor Day than a long awaited day off work.
I bumped into an old friend who had been at university with me but had been two years ahead and already graduated. I noticed immediately how tired and worn out he looked and was surprised to see how thin and scruffy he had become as he had been one of the smartest, good looking guys in his year. But I brushed it off. As we caught up I went into a tirade about how I was so fed up of work and looking forward to getting a better job with better pay and how I thought I deserved more time off with all the overtime I was putting in.
I was surprised when he didn’t join enthusiastically in complaining about his boss or work as well. I assumed he had a really good job and went on to inquire about it. He laughed and shook his head and to my shock he told me how despite graduating with a distinction he had been unemployed for the past two years. “I’m so tired of attending interviews and never being called back that right now that I’m ready to work anywhere, even in a chicken run!” he confided. He spent the next few hours telling me about the 50% unemployment rate of Zambia and how many of the people he had graduated with were in the same situation as him.
Needless to say, by the time I said goodbye to him, I felt very differently about my job. I realised that there was dignity in having a job that contributed to the well being of society, regardless of what it was. I took the time to notice all the people standing idly around street corners as I made my way to work and realised I could easily be one of them.
This year’s Labor Day has special meaning to me. It is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women, the people who make it possible for society to run smoothly. As I look forward to watching people take to the street with banners and songs of jubilation, I remember my friend and all the unemployed people in Zambia and I am determined to work harder at what I do so that I can someday help make a difference to the situation.
More importantly I now take pride in all the odd kinds of jobs that come my way. In the words of Thomas Carlyle “All work, even cotton-spinning, is noble; work alone is noble.”
Happy Labour Day!
Posted by Nambeye Katebe