A woman who is a professional gardener in another state recently shared an experience on a social media page I follow. On a very hot day, she was cleaning out some flower beds in a highway median. Hot and sweaty, she went to a nearby convenience store for a cold drink. Another woman walked in with her granddaughter and remarked that she had seen the gardener out working in the hot sun. “I told my granddaughter she had better stay in school and make good grades so she doesn’t wind up having to do a job like that!”
The landscape maintenance person was, of course, insulted. But instead of going off on the woman, she replied that she had attended college, was a licensed dental hygienist, and had a 20-year career in a nice, clean dental office. But she realized that profession did not bring her joy, and now she is working for herself, doing what she loves (and making good money). She told the little girl there are plenty of good jobs working with plants for people of any gender, color or educational level, and that they can be very satisfying.
Having grown up in the nursery industry, I myself experienced some of this type of snobbery when I was younger. My father and mother did not have college degrees, but they were some of smartest people you would ever want to know. My father chose his business because of his love of plants, and he educated himself by reading anything he could get his hands on to learn about propagating good plants.
He also knew how to grow a business. He understood economics, marketing and management. He became well known across the country for his business acumen. And he served his community on the city council and with several charities. He worked with his hands and his head and was eventually able to travel the world with my mother.
In addition to helping in the business, Mother became a well-known Bible scholar. She taught a non-denominational Bible study class for years, and pastors with doctoral degrees consulted and debated with her. Upon her death, we had filing cabinets full of her research materials.
Because of their position as leaders in the garden center industry, they were received at the White House and were honored by local, state and national industry groups. They each have their names on the cornerstones of important buildings in our community because of their help in planning and fundraising. They left a great legacy.
Yet, in high school, some kids looked down on us because our dad worked with his hands.
In the past few years, thanks in large part to Mike Rowe and his television series, more people are starting to see the value in work that might be considered “menial.” We are learning that not everyone needs a college degree to find satisfying and profitable work. And I applaud our local school district for adding the Career Education Center to help students who want to do his type of work and fill very important roles in our community.
If you are in the position of needing to hire someone to do your gardening, plumbing or fence building, you already know that this type of labor does not come cheap, nor should it. You are hiring someone else to do something you are unable to do yourself, either because you don’t have the time, the strength or the skills needed.
So don’t be like the grandmother in this example. Teach your children well. Teach them to study hard, but also to learn other skills — cooking, gardening, minor repairs, and cleaning. All these skills will come in handy at some time.
Most of all, teach them to respect anyone who works for a living, no matter what the job.