Vance, a Trapper Boy, 15 years old. Has trapped for several years in a West Va. Coal mine. $.75 a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door: most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come. On account of the intense darkness in the mine, the hieroglyphics on the door were not visible until plate was developed. Location: West Virginia. Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine, 1908 September.

What Work Used To Be Like

E. Forrest Christian Careers Leave a Comment

I advocate everyone having work that fits. I know that it is the best way to get the most out of someone, and that many of the problems that spiteful people believe are caused by personal failings are actually a result of being too big or small for the roles that society has foisted upon folks. So many of us don’t have work that fits, work that builds us up by fully using our gifts and capacities.

I also remember my grandfather.

When my grandfather died, he had read more and more widely than any other person I have met. Yet he never finished the ninth grade, being forced to go to work in the West Virginia coal mines when his father died in a cave-in. He worked the mines until his twenties, when he apprenticed as a butcher in the coal camp store through some stroke of luck. It was the Depression and butchers got to eat the meat scraps. He worked hard all his life at jobs to small for him, but he saw that his son and daughter both got to college. And both then got advanced degrees.

His grandfather had come to West Virginia as a 6-yr old boy, crossing the mountains as an indentured servant to a group going west. They got as far as “Devil” Anse Hatfield’s place on the Tug River and he was close to death from an illness. Hatfield took him in as their houseboy, and he survived to help end the Hatfield-McCoy feud years later.

These aren’t higher work level jobs. But it was all that they could get.

As bad as things may be for you, the West has enough abundance that you have a chance to make a worklife for yourself that fits. My ancestors never had the opportunities that you have. Their capacity went mostly unused because it so far outstripped the need or the opportunity.

Do the work to get work that fits. Don’t give up. You have a lot to offer and many people fought for your right to be something different than where you were born. You don’t have to take a job that doesn’t fit. It will take a great deal of effort, and courage, but you have the chance.

And last, pay attention to the story below of Vance, the boy in the picture.

Image Credit: Vance, a Trapper Boy, 15 years old. Has trapped for several years in a West Va. Coal mine. $.75 a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door: most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come. On account of the intense darkness in the mine, the hieroglyphics on the door were not visible until plate was developed. Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine, 1908 September. Part of Photographs from the records of the National Child Labor Committee (U.S.), Library of Congress.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

Comments 0

  1. Your grandfather’s story (wow Hatfields and McCoys) made me think of my own grandfather. He lived through the Russian Revolution and came to Canada in 1921. He was a philosophy professor in the old country but worked here as a janitor until he retired.

    Thanks for this encouraging post.

  2. “Do the work to get work that fits.”

    How do I figure out which work fits me best. In every job I’m carving for another opportunity, another type of job, another way of life.

    Which questions do I have to ask, and how can I, in my monologue interière, respond to them without projecting my feelings, my wishes, my future utopia. we see what we like to see, how can we learn to see what really is?

    sincerely yours

  3. Post
    Author

    It’s a good question. You’ll always be projecting. Everyone always does it: it’s part of imagining what someone else would do.

    You’ve got the right question: figuring out which work fits you best. It’s a longish answer but still something you can know.

    The real question though is why you ask this question and others do not.

    I’ll address this, because it’s worth looking at.

  4. Pingback: Why Do You Worry When Others Don’t? | Requisite Writing

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