I am a Worker, born of workers. My paternal grandfather came here from Poland, the son of a widow, in 1905. My paternal grandmother was born here to parents who immigrated from Poland. My father anticipated for his whole life that he would work at his family's gas station, but surprised himself by joining the Seminary, studying to become a Roman Catholic Priest, becoming (in the process of studying ancient languages) a classics scholar, meeting my mother, dropping out of the priesthood path, and then being kept back from the Vietnam draft by the odd fortune of being the only person qualified to teach ancient languages to high school students in an Appalachian district. He became a school teacher by default- but was born to be devotional. He ended up finally as a Guidance Counselor who worked for the rights of disabled students, and several beneficial NYS policies regarding the treatment of those who are differently abled in schools can be traced back to work he started. His parents were factory-working immigrants, who labored in the textile plants and manufacturing facilities of upstate NY in the 50's. My father is now an RC Deacon- the call to spiritual service never left him. (I relate, in my own way, to that call.) He still has my grandfather's military sword, obtained during WWII- the war in which many Polish, Irish, and Italian immigrant Americans attained social status as "white" due to their significant presence in the military and somehow surprisingly began receiving the attending privilege of whiteness in the US. See a fantastic resource, _Not June Cleaver_ for a radical history of the roles of women and ethnic minorities in the US during this period of time.
My maternal/matrilineal Grandmother never finished school beyond the 8th grade. She was a nun, then a governess for (among others) the Rockefeller family, then later a stay-at home mother. English was her second language, and French her first (being French Canadian). My maternal grandfather, the son of a spitfire Irish-German working single mom in NYC, worked in steel. He started out street poor and worked his way up to middle class over time. My mother was one of only four women at the time allowed to attend the prestigious Catholic Franciscan College where she met my father by chance. I am one of the fruits of The Work they endeavored- the spiritual arc of their development- in this world. I am grateful to them. I live them in my blood. I know I chose them- even the places where our disagreements and friction seem challenging. The net gain of knowing that we are of a karmic piece is worth any moment of difficulty we have ever had.
My parents are both educators. My mother taught Human Services at a Community College (now retired from full-time, but still teaches part-time) and my father is retired from a life of service in the public education system (still teaches part-time). Though they both attained what might be considered middle class economic status, they both still recall their very humble working-class roots, and our family's shared lifelong commitment to social justice and local economy is reflected in my current livelihood as a small independent business owner.
Although I now work for myself, I previously only ever- in my entire 15 years of professional career before that- worked in the nonprofit sector. With the exception of two jobs that I had during that time, both in the adult entertainment industry, I gave every bit of myself to what I perceive to be the "greater good." Education, health care, museums, and libraries were the places I earned my keep until I opened my shop 5 years ago in October.
Working for myself, on my own terms, is a dream I held for many years. I worked very hard to attain this dream. I have had a lot of help and privilege along the way: because Polish people are deemed "white" for the past 70 years, I have had that advantage. Because my parents knew the value of education and made huge financial sacrifices for my benefit, I have had that privilege. Yet, I still identify with the working class due to the manner in which I was taught to approach work: be honest, be resilient, be strong, show integrity, work hard.
Today is May Day, Beltane: we honor the workers. We honor the creative power that brought us forth into life. We honor those whose work built the nation. We honor the countless unsung heroes of the line. We honor our ancestors, who knew when to celebrate and deeply enjoy a good revel, for the season to come would be one of toil.
In the news, I see that there are strikes today. I applaud this. If you object to your job, to its ethics, to its structures, please, consider staying home. For my part, I will go to work. I will go because I know myself to be in Right Livelihood, and I wish that my own success will be inspiring to others to reach for their dreams. I will go to work because, practically, 6 families and countless artisans rely on my work to sustain their financial well-being. I will go to work as a symbol that YES, SOMETHING DIFFERENT IS POSSIBLE. At The Sacred Well, each employee writes her/his own job description. I know a different approach to livelihood is possible. I am living it. And I am committed to helping others find their own way toward that kind of reality. I go to work because I have made my work, well, My Work: my arc of development. Through my work I have learned the incalculable human value of each and every client, customer, and employee who has stepped through the doors of my shop. I have learned that when you are The Boss, there is no other Boss to blame for unhappiness. I have learned the value of early mornings and late nights. I have learned to be a better and more effective steward of resources in a way that benefits the largest number of people possible.
Today, from the heart, I salute you in Your Work: whether it is to create, to apply yourself to your entrepreneurial venture, to participate wholeheartedly in your Collective, or to stay out in protest of your job. I salute you! Be well and whole in your relationship to work today! Your work CAN be Your Work. All you have to do is take the first step, now, today, toward whatever that might be. Just like countless people before you have done.
I plan to start my day up on the mountain, wiping dewdrops from the leaves onto my skin for health and beauty, reveling in the glorious Morris Dancers who joyfully dance the sun up each Beltane here in the Bay Area and beyond. Then, I'll head in to TSW. If you're looking for a bit of Beltane spirit, or if you are out marching with protests, stop by. Forgive me if my eyes are a little bleary- my spirits will nonetheless be cheerful, because today, I am grateful that my work is My Work. May it be so, and soon, for all.