Safety professionals protect working class employees in countries all around the world. In every situation, we touch the lives of people who labor daily for an hourly wage. Industries, technologies and risks may change, but a common factor remains: men, women (and children) who work the front line, producing what the rest of the world purchases. These employees all have dreams, aspirations and daily realities that affect their lives and the lives of their families. Even in jobs that seem mired in drudgery, I have still seen a spark of life that seems to be built into our human DNA; hope springs eternal. There is a common desire for a better life for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and our community, no matter where we toil on our planet.
Recently, as I talked with a young minimum-wage shuttle bus driver, I was reminded of experiences in my youth. I had spent a long week of digging trenches for minimum wage, and though I was glad for the money, I certainly hoped there would be more to life for me. As I prepared for another week of dull, repetitive labor, my papa imparted some of his country wisdom that has stayed with me forever: “Son, if you aim for the stars the worst that can happen is you will reach the clouds.” We then discussed and developed a vision of my future that went way beyond living at the end of a shovel. Over the years there have been inevitable ups and downs; however Papa’s starry vision remains indelibly imprinted on my mind and my work ethic.
As safety pros, we also have down days when we seem mired in regulations gridlock, poor work conditions, impossible bosses, family struggles, and on and on. It can feel like endlessly digging trenches. I find the way out is to reflect on the starry vision, lift myself up by the scruff of the neck and exit my personal pity party by doing what I can to reach for the stars. Is it time for you to develop such a starry attitude?