I’m embarrassed to say I forgot this guy’s name, because I knew I was going to write about him the moment we met. In my defense, the moment we met was just a few seconds after I finished a two-hour forced march through the Sawtooth Mountains here in Sun Valley, Idaho, so I was probably a bit hypoxic from the altitude and the sudden burst of uncharacteristic activity. Regardless, I was genuinely touched when this guy – let’s call him Ryan – leapt out of a moving work van and began chasing me down the street.
“Hey, are you Mike Rowe?”
“Guilty,” I gasped.
“Sorry to interrupt your day,” said Ryan, “but I just want you to know I was miserable three years ago, working a job I hated in Washington, and looking to make a change. I wasn’t sure what to do, but then I saw you on TV, and then again on a podcast, talking about the skilled trades.”
“I do that a lot,” I said. “Did I say anything interesting?”
“Well,” said Ryan, “you kind of changed my life. You talked about the shortage of electricians, and what a person could make who learned that trade and wasn’t afraid to work their ass off.”
“Well, it true,” I said. “My pop was an electrician, and my foundation is a tribute to him, and I always try to…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know all that,” said Ryan. “I’ve been following you real close for the last three years. I just wanted to tell you that I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I frickin’ LOVE my job, and I’m making a great living, and I just wanted to say thanks for the encouragement.”
People ask me all the time why I’ve stuck with mikeroweWORKS these last 15 years, and I guess there are a number of honest answers. But somewhere near the top is the satisfaction I get from hearing from people like Ryan. mikeroweWORKS has now assisted nearly 2,000 individuals with work ethic scholarships, and many, many others like Ryan, who simply needed to hear an encouraging word from someone they trust. The opportunity to be that person is a privilege I take seriously, and one that leaves me feeling very grateful for the chance to share my own story with an audience willing to listen.
This Labor Day, as you may have heard, is the 15th anniversary of mikeroweWORKS, and we are at this very moment, accepting applications for another round of work ethic scholarships. We’ve set aside another million dollars for people like Ryan – people who wish to learn a skill that’s in demand and get to work. If you or someone you know fits the bill, consider yourself officially invited to apply at mikeroweWORKS.org. Or, if you’re inclined to support our efforts, click on the donate button and do whatever you think is appropriate. No pressure – there are lots or worthy causes out there that deserve your support. On Labor Day, however, it does seem fitting to celebrate people like Ryan. People who genuinely want to work. People who are willing to leave their homes, hit the reset button, and enthusiastically get busy doing a job that’s truly in demand.
For me, that’s the true spirit of this day. Not the endless pitting of labor against management, or the constant of tension between union and non-union. For me, this has always been a day to celebrate those who know that job satisfaction has less to do with the job, and more to do with the jobber. A day to celebrate the men and women who take pride in whatever it is they do, and then do it every day to the best of their ability. A day to celebrate the privilege of working, and to remind ourselves that a job is never the enemy.
Happy Labor Day!
PS. In a completely unrelated matter, many on this page will recall an incident last year, wherein a woman I called “Carol” had the presence of mind to shove her finger up the ass of a large Heeler who was trying to kill a Havanese called Vivian. As you’ll recall, Carol’s quick thinking caused the Heeler to drop Vivian, who happily, is still with us. Last night, I had the pleasure to meet “Carol,” whose real name Katherine, and Vivian, who is still alive and well, and Carol’s index finger, which saved the day. The original tale is here,and worth a read on Labor Day, or really, any other day.
PPS. Also, apropos of nothing, is some photographic proof related to my hypoxemia, exacerbated by some close friends whose names I can’t recall.