Work? or Service?

I actually got to celebrate Labor Day this year. It’s also the first federal holiday where I didn't teach a class in a long time… I had the day off. (Ok, technically I worked because I wrote this blog, but stop splitting hairs…)

Labor Day is “a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Fair enough. We are all citizens, doing our bit to keep the economic machine running smoothly. 

The definition of labor, according to, is:

  • “productive activity, especially for economic gain.” (noun)

  • “to perform labor; to exert one’s powers of body or mind; work; toil.” (verb)

Work. Toil. The ultimate goal? Getting that paycheck.

I propose that we turn this idea of – Labor, Work, Toil – on its head.

Some of us are part of the service industry where we don’t offer goods but things like transportation, entertainment or personal care.

What is the definition of service?

  • “an act of helpful activity; help; aid.” (noun)

  • “of service; useful.” (verb)

I believe that we can all switch to a “service” mentality even if we are providing tangible products. It is a matter of identifying the ultimate benefit of what we provide. Is it safety? Entertainment? Comfort? Nutrition? 

No job is thankless. Think where we would be without the people who pick up our garbage and keep our utilities going; the people who fix our streets and our homes; the people who produce and serve our food; the people who help us and our families – teachers, caregivers, hair dressers, crossing guards – the list is immense.

If I can approach what I do, my *job*, from the perspective of service, I get much more satisfaction from my endeavors. And I believe the people I encounter, or who receive my product, get a much better experience.

My suggestion? Hone in on what your job provides for people – how does it help them? Keep that in mind as you go about your day and see if it makes a difference in your mindset and the mindset of those around you.

And, when you encounter someone in the course of their job, be grateful for what they are doing for you.

Even say, “Thank you.”