My dad loved to work and put his whole self into it. Hard work and later before retirement he was supervising, and the harder they worked, the better his day was. I know that was true because even when my brothers and I were young, our dad loved to give us a Saturday morning jobs that would take grown men all day, and stopping to encourage our progress.
Later when I was a grown woman, he would pull up on a Saturday morning, I had hoped would be a day off, honk his horn and expect to find me dressed and ready to go fix fence or add on the barn, work in the garden that was a practice football field long. But it worked, I learned to love to work and we got stuff done.
I have had the privilege to work with dedicated people. And value the time and effort they put into serving the children, the people and later the environment.
Not everyone has been privileged to work at jobs they love. But work done to put food on the table and pay the house payment, and put gas in the car and hope it lasts another season. I value and respect the work done to provide the services we all depend upon to be there when we need them. The emergency room never closes, fire is never planned, and our police come when we call as if each call may save our lives. We want the lights back on, no matter the weather they are on again. Fast food lines are fast because the staff is trained to serve you quickly.
But down the street from where 900 children go to school, over a thousand workers reported for work every day, with 3 shifts of people making the tires America put on their cars, their pickups, farm tractors and tractor trailers. They worked hard and made friends that lasted a lifetime, though some of those lives were cut short on the job or because of the toxins they were exposed to working there.
And now 33 years after the gates were shut, the gates are open and workers are inside again doing the work that will protect those 900 children from exposure to one of the toxins left behind at that site. Two teams are working behind closed doors and below ground removing asbestos forever. LEAD Agency wasn't around when the tires were being made, but is now and we have with many locals been providing our thanks to the cleanup crew with cookies and donuts. And will continue until they complete their work mid-January. Bet we will get a second round organized if and when the benzene crews make the rest of those worries go away.
During seven decades in the last century, there were others who were working below ground providing for their families, too. They worked without sunlight in large and small spaces and some whole rooms that glistened with light hitting the crystals of quartz, zinc and lead. Those fairy rooms came apart and turned into pieces that went right up the shafts and made some folks rich and most of the others a living. They too made lifelong friends and friends they buried long before their time, because of accidents that were not rare beneath the ground and when they no longer could breathe when their lungs failed them with miners comp or silicosis.
We have lost a lot for the opportunity to work. We have lost grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers. So many men never made the memories I had the opportunity to have with parents who lived long lives and taught me to love to work.
There are over 60 people reporting for work every day now and may be doing it for as many decades it took to make the mess we know as the Tar Creek Superfund site. We honor their work and will invite you to join us as we cookie this team a few times before Christmas for the work they are doing, clearing land, selling what can be of use building roads and building a mountain of the toxic chat that will be capped and left on site as the mesas of our mess. They are employed by the Quapaw Nation, the first tribal nation given the right to use federal funds to cleanup superfund messes on their own property.
Work, grateful work. Don't we all long for work that provides the living we want with a safe work site to protects us and our future environment. When the horn sounds in the morning the joy of walking out the door to do a thing that needs to be done and the joy it brings to having completed it.
From the poem
To be of use by Marge Piercy
The people I love the best jump into work head first...
do what has to be done, again and again
The work of the world is common as mud...
But the thing worth doing well has a shape that satisfies but were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim