Working, Class

If you work for other people, do not be ashamed of this and do not ask for extra pay. Remember that your labor, when done in love for the goodness of others, is good for your spirit.

This morning’s Tolstoy reading from his Wise Thoughts for Every Day is rather fascinating, since just yesterday commuting home from ESU, on a payday, in highway traffic, I reveled in my working class buzz. Perhaps only the working class can find some transcendent joy on a dreary Friday early-evening commute home, in the middle of traffic, with a paycheck safely deposited in the bank. A semi truck went by with the phrase “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” emblazoned in stylish paint on the back of its cab. And it brought me a cargo of thoughts. The working week was over (although I do lecture preparation and grading on the weekends). A sense of relief, and pride, filled my heart. Classical music from NPR filled the air inside my car. I would soon be taking the off-ramp to home. Fridays were always a moment for joy, to a degree, in my childhood home: it was day we got our “pocket money” or allowance; it was the day our parents were paid, and often this meant supper out at a local cafe. Dyan and I celebrate with tea and conversation; sometimes when the weather is good, a cigar on the deck for me. Though any sociologist worth her salt will tell you class definitions are fraught with complications, I do feel that as a teacher and writer — and at the wage I am paid for these duties — I am in that class we call workers, working the week through, honestly, and with the best intentions. Putting bread in the basket, eggs in the fridge, hot coffee in the pot each day of the week with sustained effort isn’t anything to be ashamed of, as Tolstoy reminds us, when done in love and yes for the goodness not only of others I might add, but also yourself.

I work for a living.