(Written respectfully for the McGinley Family)
Thank you for teaching me –
I come from this. I am this and because I am,
I want to be this
especially to the best of my ability because
behold the worker,
the doer, the prime mover of the world
the one who aches and hurts yet
regardless of time or the weight upon their shoulders
because of them,
the gears of this world still turn because, in fact,
it’s us, the breed of us,
the workers and the working-class
who turn the wheels
and make this factory go round
I want to be this –
I want to be more like this because I don’t ever want to forget
who I am or where I came from
because who I am and where I came from;
although humble, this is beautiful and true
and without this, I would be nothing more
than someone who is either easily misled
or misused, or unaware and blinded
by the ill-conceived values of spoiled lives
and privileged brats
who never knew what it meant to get a splinter,
let alone sweat or bleed,
just to earn their daily bread
and keep a roof above their head.
Lord, let me be this way;
hungry, tenacious, durable and unwavering.
Let me be as I was taught, please, because this way,
I can be like those who showed me how to live and to earn
and how to keep my pride at a healthy value,
so I won’t lose myself in the grime of the glitz and glamour;
but instead, I will understand the value of a meal,
whether it be from a tower of silver trays at high-priced places
or from a cardboard box, wrapped in paper,
from a quick-stop, fast-food joint.
Lord, let me know the value of both
because on the day that I reach my goal
and find my spot in a post-retirement life,
say at the beaches of Boynton or
it could be anywhere in the southern part of our world; thus,
please let me understand the reason I’m here
is because I earned every bite and every crumb
and because I worked for this
I deserve this the same as I deserve a ticket to your side
when my days come to an end.
let me be this way.
let me remember
let me understand and never lose sight of who I am
or where I came from; but more,
let me not be ashamed or lose to the wrong comparisons
let me keep my chin up,
let me be proud, but not prideful in the sense
that I am sinful.
No, that’s not what I want at all.
Instead, let me understand the meaning of value
and that is this:
I was taught, whether you are the executive or the president,
or the one who cleans the toilets or empties the garbage;
we are all still of the same race, of the same tribe
and, in the end, no matter how great the bank account is
or not, we all face the same finish.
Thus, this is only life.
Let me remember this because don’t I know it;
this is all we have and above all,
there is no sequel
no second shot at “right now” which means
there’s only this moment
and what we choose to do with this moment
is the key which dictates our future.
Let me be this –
please . . .
Oh the working man,
not gone yet and not forgotten
yet, hard in life and heavy-handed, eating from “as they say”
a brown paper bag to keep costs down,
dirt beneath the fingernails, black soot on their face,
tired eyes, and an upper lip with a slight mist of perspiration
forming from hunger
that is currently being addressed
with a turkey and cheese on white bread,
the plastic from a sandwich bag
is being used as a glove to keep from palming
dirty fingerprints on the wholesome decentness of the bread;
and there, beside them is a thermos of something to drink,
hopefully enough to satiate both the need
to wash down food and to satisfy thirst.
And ah, there they are; a dying breed;
a person of their craft, a man of blood, sweat and tears,
a woman on the job, stepping away from the production line,
or away from the site or workstation
as it stands, working hard without question,
building, moving, purchasing,
monitoring, laboring in any regard
and working hard; whether their hands
will ever be accurately clean after washing them in the slop sink or not;
behold, the working-class hero, behold the assistant to the chief
behold the underdog, the under-appreciated and
behold the one who puts this all behind
or puts their body on the line with all they have;
with all their muscle, all their might,
all the energy and endurance, swinging wrenches,
turning screws, crunching numbers, or adding figures
tightening bolts and ah, behold them at their lunch hour,
less the foreman and less the project managers or supervisors who,
if you put them altogether, neither of them could add up
or reach a fraction of the worker’s knowledge.
Behold the hands which hold together a family.
Behold their understanding,
which holds together a factory,
safe and sound, because experience
has shown the way, how to work, how to use tools,
how to improve and be efficient
each and every day, so help me God
and how to interact with a crew
or with other people
without harm, without injury,
or without irresponsible accidents
that come with rookie-minded apprentices
who obviously know everything
and whose initiations and dues
are yet to be paid.
There they are, the heart of this country,
neither right side or left, neither wealthy nor poor
but instead, the simple middleclass, working,
making their way without complaints
because, of course, at the end of the month,
rent is due, as well as all the other bills
that support the roof over their head
and fill the bellies at the table
Bless him. Bless her.
Bless their family. Bless their home.
Bless their factory. Bless their construction site.
Bless their trade and the fellow tradespeople
who, like them, work and slave
and burn their candles at both ends
while meeting themselves
as they walk through the door
to go home
only to wake up again
and do it once more.
Bless their meals and bless their purchases.
Bless their children and their college education
which has been earned and paid for
by the labor of their working-class parents.
Bless them for not relenting and bless them for not lamenting,
complaining, or bitching about the work it takes
to put a plate of food on the table.
Bless them because without them
where would their children be?
Bless him. Bless her. Bless them
and bless those whose world is supported
and paid for by the sweat of their craft
and bless their children
so that they’ll remember where they came from.
Let them remember the smell of oil
from the burners or the sound of the doors opening up,
late after a long day and in they come;
the worker, the breadwinner,
the support and steel
that strengthens the backbone of the family.
Bless the memory of their fathers
who lay to rest
and view them proudly now
with eyes that see us more clearly
because again – the eyes in heaven
never blink – not once
because they don’t need to.
I remember – yes.
I was a boy, asleep at night, woken by the sound of the front door
opening and then shutting and in he came,
my Old Man, tired and yes, frustrated,
the worker, the provider,
and the head of the household
who taught me what it means to work
and to understand the value of labor –
who taught me never to be ashamed to get my hands dirty
because this shows one thing:
the dedication, which means that no matter what,
and no matter which level,
anyone who is willing to get their hands dirty
is willing to do anything to make a good,
honest living to provide for their family.
Bless this memory. Bless this lesson.
Bless my mentors for keeping this understanding alive.
Bless the highbrow bullshit and the so-called uppity
who look down their nose or sit up high on corporate scales
because without the support from the workers below;
there would be no pedestal for them to sit upon.
And should they forget this,
bless them when their world collapses
and they find themselves down and out
because the air at the bottom has changed since their time there.
all of those who were put down or scoffed upon,
or scowled at, or seen as lower in class
because of the failure to recognize the dignity of heart,
bless them now
all those who fell from grace
and bless their lessons in humility
because the ashes from their burnout are enough to blind their eyes
and keep them from realizing
that as hard as they fell; they can fall harder
especially when getting kicked around
at the bottom of the pile, beaten and used,
just like they beat those
who they used as a stack of bodies
to climb up to the top.
I have seen them. The older generation.
The ones who came from hard lives and
in their hardships, they managed to make sure
their children received an education that was better than their own.
Bless them. Treat them. Give to them the same as they have given to me
because I was fortunate enough to see them, a dying breed,
to meet them; those who know how to fix,
build, or to engineer instead of pushing buttons
or promoting an outsourced hotline,
with an automated system that tells you nothing
and keeps you buying new machines
instead of repairing the old ones.
I have worked with them. I have shared meals with them.
I have been knee-deep in flooded rooms,
turning wrenches and spinning valves,
opening drains, bashing through concrete walls
replacing pipes, moving machines,
breaking down plants to repower with new models
and updating systems to keep up with the times.
I can say that I have seen them,
the last of a dying breed, and because of this, I am better.
I am not of their salt or their Earth, but alas,
I learned the value of their lessons
and saw what it means to put your body through whatever comes;
just to feed your family
so they can have a life better than yours.
Dear Pop –
This was you, coming home late and tired.
A bead of sweat at your upper lip
when you were eating your reheated dinner
or savoring the leftovers
that were saved for you when you came home.
I was too young to understand then,
but I get it now.
Thank you for bringing me up this way, the working-class.
Thank you for your lessons of humility.
Thank you for teaching me the realization
that I can do anything and that regardless of the color of my collar;
whether it is white or blue
and whether my nails are fresh and manicured
or dirty with the worst kind of filth,
thank you for teaching me what it means to work hard
because as I stand now in the face of a new chapter
and gear myself towards the promise of “the good life,”
the only way
any of this will ever be possible
is if I work for it.
Hence, this is why I wake between 3:30 and 4:30 every morning –
to train myself, to keep building my strength
so that I can strengthen my resolve
to be the man you taught me to be –
faults and all; I am the working man.
Because of you . . .
Oh, and hey Mike,
I know this trip didn’t end the way you thought it would
but just so you know, this is who you are, a man who went through wars
just so your family could have a good life.
Thanks for being who you are.