Factory workers. Throughout our country’s history, they were viewed as lower-class people. Uneducated. Worn-down clothing. Leaving work smelling of sweat and filth. Working long hours, repeatedly doing mundane tasks. They were just factory workers. What could they possibly teach others?
My mother worked at a factory during part of my childhood. She molded barrettes, combs and other items for styling hair. She balanced the conditions of being a factory worker with the demands of being a first-time mom. She taught me how to take pride in the quality of work that you partake in, no matter where you are working.
My dad worked in another state during part of my life at a steel factory. He worked long hours and I recall him getting a few injuries while working there. At the
same time, he was selected to help train other co-workers and to participate in educational courses to deepen his knowledge of specific skills. He taught me that working long hours and showing up every day can result in career advancement.
My maternal grandfather worked in a factory where they made wooden toys, such as children’s blocks. He invested in this factory job as he spent day after day in the uncomfortable conditions. Later, he developed his own business as a leather craftsman. He taught me that you can be very dedicated as a worker, and also create opportunities to enjoy the more relaxed aspects of life.
My paternal grandmother worked many years in a factory where she spent countless hours in the bobby pin department. I’m sure that the long hours of standing on her feet were not enjoyable, but she stuck it out and continued to bring home paychecks to provide for her family as a single parent. She taught me that you can maintain a balance between being a hard worker and also giving your family the quality of time that they need as you build memories rooted in traditions.
My aunt spent time working in a silk mill factory. In addition to the silk mill, she also worked in a factory where they produced hats. For as long as I can remember, my aunt was always a woman who held down multiple jobs at the same time, while also being a single parent. She taught me to be a quality worker without complaining about the workload.
My little brother worked at a factory where they built and repaired kitchen cabinets. At a young age, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with men who were more than double his age. He completed quality work at the same level as those around him, and often pushing himself even further to excel in his job. He taught me to always strive to exceed management’s expectations, even when it doesn’t feel like you are rewarded for your level of commitment.
This past week I had a random realization. I realized how many of my family members had worked in a factory at some point throughout their years. (This list did not even name all of them.) Paired with that realization was the unarguable truth that these individuals have impacted many people around them due to their work ethic, including myself. Did these jobs make us rich? No. Were they easy jobs? No. Was the work ethic always appreciated by superiors? No. But you see, there were much stronger messages being taught! Not only were these family members encouraging co-workers around them through their actions, they were also developing a strong foundation for the next generation to have strong work ethic. They were teaching life lessons that cannot just be stated, but are rather demonstrated through actions. They were just factory workers…who left an immeasurable impact on their community and the younger generations throughout our family.
Ahmeli… that we aim to put character before circumstances and that we make our actions parallel our words.
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