A Labor Day Lesson… From a 98-Year-Old Bag Boy

Why in the world do we celebrate work?

That stuff hurts.

What’s Labor Day really about, anyway?

For most folks, it’s bad news. It means the end of summer… back to school… and the boss is back from vacation.

Are we to think we’re really celebrating the little guy today… the guy who gets just a few bucks an hour to do the dirty work nobody else wants to do?

If so, why haven’t the social justice warriors caught on? Where’s the “woke” crowd taking to the streets begging for more of its fair share?

We figure they’re at the beach getting their last bucket of fries and one final stroll down the boardwalk.

That’s okay… we don’t need them.

We’ve got your inbox to ourself today.

Paper or Plastic?

If we really want to learn about work and why it’s something that many in our culture treat as though it were a dirty, four-letter word… we need to hear from Bennie Ficeto.

As we continue our series of essays on the World War II generation, we can’t help but celebrate the former B-25 pilot’s work.

He’s a bag boy.

Pardon us… he’s a bag man. Or, better, a bag veteran?

It doesn’t matter. The point is the 98-year-old still ties his shoes and goes to work twice a week at the local grocery store.

He doesn’t have to. Nobody is going to kick him onto the streets.

From what we can tell, he does it merely to prove a point.

He’s our kind of man.

Forget the Clichés

“You got to enjoy work. You got to enjoy what you’re doing,” he recently told reporters who came to witness his surprise birthday party at the Stop & Shop. “I see people running around and saying, ‘Oh, I have to go to work!’ That’s ridiculous.”

To be fair, those words are nothing new.

Peer over the fence at any high school graduation ceremony (that’s what we had to do since we weren’t invited to ours) and you’ll hear some pompous fool saying he’s never worked a day in his life… because he loves his job.

It’s pure bunk.

But when Ficeto says it, he says it with a tear in his eye and a glance at the sky.

“The lord took me home,” he says. “All the missions I flew.”

In fact, if it weren’t for an odd injury, we may not be hearing from the man these days. After all, it was a swollen hand that kept him on the ground the day his replacements got shot out of the sky.

But it was his soul’s desire for good work that put him in the sky the next day.

Think about that.

Take some German flak at work… and tell us you still love your job.

Watch your buddies get blown up by a mortar meant for you… and sign up for the next overtime shift.

Or put your fellow man in the crosshairs… and don’t cry when you cash that check on Friday afternoon.

That war was hell. All wars are.

And yet countless men like Ficeto climbed out of their foxholes and got to work.

Take Us Home…

So when the 98-year-old bag boy tells us that we gotta find a job we like… we scratch our head and ponder things a bit.

When we do, we realize nobody enjoys putting some old lady’s tomato soup in a bag. Nobody gets up in the morning and wants to be the world’s best bagger.

We’d argue most of the folks we run into do it because they failed a background check.

But that’s not the case for Ficeto and so many other folks who truly claim happiness at work.

For these folks – you can count us in, by the way – work isn’t about the enjoyment of the job.

We’d love to sleep in… not have to talk to a room of hundreds of folks… or not get stung in the neck just for a dumb jar of honey.

But there’s a spot in our soul that gets filled up when we get the job done.

Say it was put there by our creator, or say it’s an evolutionary trait that keeps the species moving forward… it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that labor is the catalyst that sparks a great chemical reaction.

Wealth is nothing without earning it.

Happiness is fleeting when sloth comes knocking.

But toss just a dash of work into the concoction… and, oh boy, you should see that smile on Ficeto’s war-worn face.

He and his men didn’t want to kill. They didn’t want to leave their families behind. But their work had a purpose. Their labor had an obvious and soulful reward.

Ficeto is no longer liberating the oppressed. He’s fighting a different battle these days.

He’s going to work – happily – until he’s 100.

He knows what he’s working for.

Do you?

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