From White to Blue
Around the beginning of the 20th century, the working classes began to separate into white and blue collar workers. White collar workers could wear white shirts without fear of soiling them and blue collar workers were folks who worked with their hands and tended to wear darker colors to avoid showing stains.
I've worn both.
Years ago at a broker breakfast, I sat around the table with heavy-hitting commercial real estate brokers. I wasn't one of them in that regard, as I was just a pup with credit card debt and a license. But I drank coffee with them and we talked about comps and what not. After we were about 20 minutes into the meeting a broker who was supposed to be in the meeting walked by the conference room in which we sat. He stopped and leaned in, his hair gelled into short ringlets and his expensive clothes pressed. His shoes were pointy and shiny.
"Where have you been?" One of his colleagues asked.
"My gate broke. It wouldn't open."
"You know there is a manual release on those gates if the opener isn't working. You can just pull the pin and open the gate."
Slicked back hair guy looked at his hands and smiled. "Nah. There are no calluses on these hands."
Forgive the ridiculous example, but I use this illustration to highlight how deep and wide the divide has become between blue collar and white collar jobs. Now obviously not every white collar worker sees blue collar work this way - of course not. But as we coach young men and women in regards to their careers it seems uniformly accepted that we should point them towards fields like law, insurance, real estate, investment banking, and medicine. Here is the game plan - go to a good 4 year college, graduate, and enter a white collar field that mom and dad are proud to talk about.
I went that route and followed the commonly accepted game plan. It has been a blessing for sure. But about a year ago now I transitioned from white collar to blue collar as I entered the construction business and I have loved every minute of it.
My thesis is not that we should transition to blue collar jobs, nor do I believe that there is anything at all wrong with white collar jobs. No, my point is that we should view working class careers as equally valuable and viable and that we should not thumb our nose at the kind of work you produce through physical effort. Jesus hung out with folks all along the spectrum: fishermen, lawyers, and the equivalent of an IRS agent.
Work is valuable because God made it so. And there are many types of work that can bring honor and glory to God, some of which will have you coming home smelling a little off.
Photo credit: mae Noelle via Flickr