Recently, while waiting in the drive-thru at a local fast-food restaurant, I heard the
patron in front of me yelling at the worker. I'm not sure what he was yelling
about; perhaps she got his order wrong, or maybe they were out of something
he wanted. But he was not happy and made it well known—by his tone and choice
of words—to the worker and the rest of us in line.
When I got to the window to pick up my order, I apologized to the
young woman for the man's behavior.
"It's O.K.," she replied. "I get that all the time. I'm used to
As I drove away, I thought how sad that was. Here was a young woman
trying to earn some money—maybe for school, maybe for a car, who knows?—and
this is the type of behavior she must endure.
Not a New Issue
This month we celebrate Labor Day, a day to recognize the work
done by all.
The Church has long addressed the issue of the dignity of work and
workers. The 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII challenged
Catholics to focus on the worker within the context of the workforce. It addressed
issues such as just wages and issues affecting the various social classes. A
hundred years later, Pope John Paul II revisited the same issues in Centesimus
The U.S. bishops also repeatedly address the issue of work with
their Labor Day statements. In last year's statement, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
of Washington, D.C., chairman of the bishops' Domestic Policy Committee, emphasized:
"Work should strengthen our family life, providing resources and respect, benefits
and health care for families. Work should enhance our family, community and
spiritual lives. Work should allow a family to live in dignity."
He added, "As we perform our work, our contribution to the continuation
of God's creation, we need to recognize that even the simplest thing we do can
be a contribution to the common good. The decisions we make at work can in small
ways help shape the fabric and ethics of our society."
Doing Our Part
Work is an essential part of our lives. It is our responsibility
to make sure that every worker strives for and receives the dignity which he
or she deserves. Here are some ways we can do just that:
Take pride in the work that you do.
other workers—co-workers, salespeople, etc.—as you would like to be treated.
informed about bills being introduced in Congress that affect workers, and make
your thoughts about them heard. For instance, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of
2003 has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Read up on this bill
and then write your congressional representatives to urge them to support the
Make yourself aware of issues facing workers. Check out the Web site
of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Social Development and
World Peace (www.
that, while work is an important part of your life, it is not the only part.
Don't forget to stop and enjoy the other important aspects of your life such
as family, friends, hobbies, sports and leisure activities.
Read Rerum Novarum or Centesimus Annus. Both are available
online at www.vatican.va.
Next Month: The Original Animal Worker