Today is Labor Day, the holiday where we rest from our labors and honor those who work for a living. Here’s a couple of things I notice about people who labor. One, some people work harder for their money than others. Two, some people do really important jobs and yet our society pays them much less than they are worth. Others do what are in reality trivial jobs, but get paid massive amounts of money.
It’s easy to see. A great teacher, for example, is of much more value to the long-term health and development of a society than a great entertainer. However, a great entertainer can make 100x the salary of a great teacher in one year. Or how about those who fight our fires and protect our lives, as opposed to CEOs who depend on that basic level of safety to build and to make their companies profitable? Even lousy CEOs tend to be compensated at a much higher rate than excellent firefighters and rescue personnel.
As I read recently in this blog post by Seth Godin, our society does not always match money to contribution. Profitable is not the same as important. Sometimes it is, but often it is not. Think about it – who has influenced you the most profoundly in your life, a great teacher or a great entertainer? For most of us, it’s the contribution of the lowly paid teaching professional that helped set the trajectory of our life.
Today on this Labor Day, let us remember those who work in jobs that serve and promote the common good in our world. This day is for those heroes, regardless of how much money they make this year.