* * *
In an episode of the 1970s sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Mary helped her friend Phyllis land a badly needed job at the TV station where Mary worked.
Phyllis' first assignment, as I recall, was to organize a long-neglected slew of papers. Repulsed by the mere thought of such tedium, she asked, "Don't you have 'people' to do that kind of thing?"
Mary replied sweetly, "Yes - you."
* * *
Clyde's grand-nephew Jacob graduated last year and couldn't immediately find a job teaching in his field. He'd majored in history, with further specialization in early Eurasian history. His senior thesis had been on the cross-cultural ties between third-century Italian midget circuses and late Han dynasty pottery, and he was surprised to find so few Northeast Mississippi school principals shared his enthusiasm.
It took a while for his parents to add to his postgraduate education the realization that honest labor might not be as intellectually stimulating as indoctrinating bright young minds in esoteric facts but that living in their basement and playing video games all day was absolutely beneath his dignity, not to mention his looming student debt obligations.
After they began hinting that he was about to become a candidate for Salvation Army quarters, Jacob rented an apartment and began mowing grass from early morning to early afternoon. He takes a shower and a nap before delivering pizzas for another eight hours or so.
"It pays the bills and still leaves my weekends free," Jacob told us when he stopped in on the Coffee Clutchers recently.
Since learning to labor, he has also reconsidered his career options. He's going to add a few online courses that'll enable him to teach anything from Western civilization to civics to the Civil War.
"What do you know now that you wish you'd known before?" Chester asked him.
"One, I'd remember that there ought to be some marketable part of your passion that supports the other parts," Jacob said.
"The other is that 'menial' ought to be struck from the dictionary," he said. "I've learned that work doesn't degrade anyone. When I found myself cutting grass and pulling weeds for a living, I soon realized the quality of my work contributes to the success of my customers' businesses. When I delivered pizzas, more often than not I was helping families or friends enjoy a meal together."
Jacob's voice quivered ever so slightly when he offered a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that summed up his recent education: "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at firstname.lastname@example.org.