On a summer getaway to the North Coast, my wife and I followed a long day of hiking and exploring with a trip to a major city, by northern Minnesota standards.
After taking a shower, we dragged our tired bones into the car and set off in search of a quality restaurant that we hoped to enjoy until late into the evening. When we got to town we were puzzled to see large groups of vacationers thronging the streets. Some stood in groups. Every bench on the sidewalks was occupied. The people looked dumbfounded, which piqued our curiosity.
We have found a quality restaurant. Upon entering through the front door, our olfactory senses were stimulated and the feeling of hunger began to exert their anticipatory effect on us. But the hostess informed us that we had to wait an hour and a half to be seated. After that, it was not clear how long it might take to be served. Finding that a less popular restaurant would reduce our wait time, we walked the streets of downtown with reduced expectations and a growing perception of why so many people were flocking together with an air of grim resignation.
The next restaurant we found was closed. A dull information board was posted on the front door. Due to the federal government’s liberality in issuing stimulus checks, the restaurant was unable to persuade enough workers to take their shifts. The restaurant was sometimes open, but not that evening.
The next restaurant we encountered was packed with diners, the culmination of an innovative approach to the labor shortage. Customers had to collect their orders from the kitchen and carry their own tables. We didn’t know how long it would take to queue to place an order. An hour seemed optimistic. The self-driving activity in the dining room created an atmosphere that leaned towards chaos. Back on the streets in search of food, we couldn’t find a shorter wait at a fast food restaurant.
Driven by hunger, we ended up eating on a bench outside a grocery store where we bought deli meats a few minutes before the store closed. The food we ate was literally destined for the dumpster, which is rather out of place. We have satiated our empty stomachs. Our taste buds remained in a state of utter protest.
A short conversation with a cook clarified part of the dilemma. He had the choice of going to work every day or staying at home and receiving more income from the government. He had things to do at home, he assured me. Why earn less income by working for an employer when you can earn more by staying at home and receiving government assistance? It’s a good question.
I am not proposing any singular response to the complex of societal challenges that beset our nation. The pandemic is influencing people differently, forcing many to make tough decisions. Yet, looking back, it is alarming to consider that the September jobs report estimates the number of job vacancies at 11 million, a near record high. Service industries are particularly affected, as workers question the long-term implications of fulfilling such roles now or never.
While not a panacea, there are several principles that are important to recognize and promote as we journey into the future under a cloud of dire predictions regarding supply chain delays and supply shortages. workers.
First, human beings are created to work. Work is not just something most adults must do in order to survive, our creator designed us to work (Genesis 2: 5-7, 16). Hard work can provide a deep sense of fulfillment, even if we do not particularly appreciate the work we do or fully appreciate the intrinsic benefits that work contributes to the stability of the soul (1 Thessalonians 4: 11).
Second, there is dignity in manual labor. Of course, not all jobs or all demands of an employer are of equal value; but successful societies recognize that people who get their hands dirty – if only by a keyboard – are part of a noble enterprise. Manual labor is not for losers, it is for people who discover the dignity of serving others skillfully (Genesis 2:16; Proverbs 31: 10-31; Mark 10:45; 1 Corinthians 4:12 ; 2 Thessalonians 3: 8).
Third, we flirt with disaster when we allow government authorities to reward people who are fully capable of working but choose not to. Some adults cannot work. We have a responsibility to help them lest they thrive through no fault of their own (Acts 20:35). But it is another matter to maintain systems that encourage people who should be working not to work. As the apostle Paul said, âIf anyone does not want to work, let him not eatâ (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
My wife and I returned to our accommodations believing that we had left a very strange world behind us. But over the weeks, it rather seems that the world has changed. Longer wait times for service and empty shelves in retail stores are not a big deal; but recognizing the call and privilege of hard work certainly is.
Reverend Dan Miller is a pastor at Eden Baptist Church in Burnsville and can be contacted at www.edenbaptist.org. He is one of the many pastors in the area who write for Spiritual Reflections.