Jewish World Review
Sept. 1, 2000 / 1 Elul, 5760
For those who labor 24/7
I CAUGHT the first installment of "Hopkins 24/7" this week. It's a
documentary series on ABC chronicling the daily life of medical staffers at
Baltimore's prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital.
One adjective captures the atmosphere: bleary-eyed. At 1 a.m., Dr. Edward
Cornell, chief of the trauma unit, saves a young shooting victim's arm. At
sunrise, he and other surgeons gather to review the week's harrowing
surgeries in which their patients either died or became gravely ill. Then
it's back to the floor. In an upcoming episode, a young and harried
resident, 27-year-old Dr. Kathie Pooler, compares working in the emergency
room to being a waitress juggling eight tables at once. Another resident,
worn down by emotionally draining, 100-hour work weeks, quits. It's "ER"
on a double dose of Vivarin.
This reality-based programming is more than mere infotainment to me. My
dad, a neonatologist who cares for premature babies, trained at Hopkins
nearly three decades ago -- and he has been working non-stop ever since.
This Labor Day weekend, he'll pull three, 24-hour shifts. He sleeps, if
you can call it that, overnight in a hospital bed.
When he isn't at the hospital, he's on call. When he isn't on call, he's
reading up on the latest innovations in his field and handling a mountain
of administrative tasks. His vacations, to use the term loosely, are
scheduled around medical conferences and seminars. He never rests. And he
never makes a fuss about it.
According to records at the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day was first
suggested by Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of
Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of
Labor, to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the
grandeur we behold."
Millions of working men and women employed in the trades or by the
government will enjoy the day off. Union leaders will pay homage to the
labor movement and use the Labor Day commemoration to demand higher wages,
more benefits, and more vacation. Both presidential candidates will be
pandering to the teachers' unions, singling out public school educators for
proposed tax credits and deductions and bonuses and incentives to reward
their lifelong dedication.
Sure, teachers perform an important role and often bring their work home
with them. (My mom – a public school teacher for nearly a quarter-century –
still does.) But do they deserve special treatment over others? This Labor
Day weekend, I'll be thinking of so many other white- and blue-collar
workers who, like my dad, will be working diligently and anonymously
through the holiday weekend while the rest of us loaf, complain, picnic,
There's the patrol cop on night shift. And the dogged detective who won't
give up on an unsolved case long after he goes off the clock.
There's the 911 telephone operator. And the emergency room receptionist.
And the nursing home aide tending to elderly patients from dusk to dawn.
There's the taxi driver, traveling alone in high-crime neighborhoods to
pick up a fare.
There's the waitress at the roadside café, cheery even at 2 a.m. when
grouchy travelers shuffle into her station.
There's the clerk at the 7-11, gulping coffee to stay alert and studying
law or computer programming in the midnight hour between customers.
There's the farmer who has done a day's work before daybreak. And the
trucker who has logged a half-million miles while we slumbered. And the
janitor who makes your children's school sparkle before you've had
breakfast. And the ink-stained typesetter making sure your newspaper's
ready when you do finally wake.
And, of course, there are those other important workers who labor "24/7"
but receive no paycheck – parents who stay at home raising their children
out of the spotlight and without fanfare.
For all those who give without expecting anything back, who believe hard
work is its own reward, and who toil around the clock for the health,
safety, and comfort of others: Thank
JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate