By Kenneth Justice
~“I just couldn’t do it……I tried, really I did, but at the end of the day I quit”
The other day at coffee the young woman sitting next to me took a break from her studying for a test and struck up a conversation with me, “I’m studying to be an optometrist” she told me, “Actually, I already have all of the coursework done for a degree in nursing but on my first day working my clinical’s at the hospital I couldn’t take it and quit”
Apparently, on her first day at the hospital the young woman had to change the diapers of three different older adults….and she couldn’t stomach the experience and informed her advisor that she wanted to change majors.What the young woman thought ‘hospital work’ entailed, I don’t really know. I even asked her that exact question and all she could do was laugh, “Honestly Kenneth, I thought I could handle the dirtier aspects of hospital work but I guess I found out that I couldn’t” she said
The conversation reminded me of my experience years ago when I volunteered at an Alzheimer’s assisted living home. Many of the patients were in the final stages of Alzheimer’s and rarely understood where they were or what was going on. I would watch the men and women nurses who tended the Alzheimer patients and admired their patience and diligence in working with these people. The pay was incredibly low, and I remember wondering why anyone would want to work in such a demanding and difficult job for such a low amount of money.
It’s a strange society that we live in; teenage singers can make millions of dollars singing pop songs that other people wrote for them…….and yet the men and women in human service who are truly making a difference in the lives of others barely make enough money to get by in life. One of the lowest paid professions in the United States is that of teacher; with the exception of rich suburban communities….most teachers make well below the national average of salaries. It often perplexes me that the men and women we hire to teach our children are so underpaid.
Yesterday I read a story about a football player that wants to renegotiate his contract….he wants a long-term deal worth about 82 million dollars. There are have been many stories written over the years about our culture’s obsession with sports and the propensity we display in paying athletes millions of dollars to kick, hit, or throw a ball……yet underpay the teachers, human service workers, and ministers who dedicate their lives to serving people.
But what good does it do to complain about this disparity if we aren’t going to do anything about it? Last week a woman and her daughter came in for a quick coffee, “We’re on our way to gymnastics” the mother told me, her daughter couldn’t have been any older than 8years old. “It’s a full time job to do gymnastics; we go five days a week for three hours each day, but my daughter loves it!” she said.
Of course I didn’t condemn the mother, and I don’t want to disparage her in this article. But I can’t help but wonder; if we as parents are going to involve our children in athletics 3 hours every single night…..then can we really complain when we see athletes getting contracts for a hundred million dollars and see our teachers barely making above the minimum wage?
– One of my concerns with our culture’s fascination with sports is that I wonder if it is not robbing our children of their childhood –
My favorite sociologist, Neil Postman wrote, “Even childhood games have been replaced by organized sports (Little League, Pee Wee, etc.) which are more like adult sports”. Have we robbed our children of their childhood by involving them so much in organized athletics that their childhood looks more like that of a professional athlete than that of a grammar school kid?
There is a lot of injustice in the world….and I guess on one hand this area of income disparity isn’t the biggest deal. After all, with massive numbers of people in Africa suffering from HIV, and all of the thousands of innocent victims in the Sudan suffering from the cruel and inhumane ongoing saga that plagues their land I suspect I need to be careful in not over-stating the issue of income disparity.
Yet nonetheless, I believe it is important to keep an ongoing conversation going about the subject of income disparity; and specifically about being more thankful for the people who work those ‘difficult’ and sometimes ‘dirty’ jobs. Shouldn’t we as a culture be more thankful for that nurse at the hospital who changes diapers…then for the man or woman who can run really fast?
Of course, maybe I am wrong. Maybe it is more important to celebrate and cheer our sports hero’s than to be thankful for teachers and all of those people who sacrifice their lives to serve the public.
Time for another coffee,
If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a tour of 100 coffee houses around the U.S. & Europe visiting with readers, bloggers, and everyone else in between. I’d love to have coffee with you! Check my homepage for dates and locations.
Categories: Culture & Society