Thanksgiving in Perspective

The media is flooded lately with articles about retail workers complaining about having to work on Thanksgiving day this year. At first , I was on their side in thinking it was just unconscionable to make people work on Thanksgiving. Then I logged into Facebook.

I am the son of a thirty year Army veteran and a twenty eight year civil service veteran, as well as the brother of a six year Air Force veteran. I know they say we shouldn’t have regrets,  but there are so many people in my family and circle of friends who selflessly served our country through the military I find it hard to not regret not having served any time in the military. When I log into Facebook I see so many friends posting updates about how grateful they are to be spending time with their families over the holidays and it becomes obvious, without them having to say it, they have missed past holidays while they served out country. You’re not likely to hear veterans complain about being away from their families during the holidays because they grew used to it as part of their job. It doesn’t mean they didn’t yearn for that lost family time and it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t change it if they could. It just means they knew what they signed up for and they dealt with it.

To hear people who work in air conditioned buildings manning a cash register complain about working on Thanksgiving is hard to sympathize with when I imagine what many of our military veterans and active duty troops will be enduring this holiday season. Instead of manning a cash register they may be manning a post with an M16, or manning a Hum Vee or a patrol out in the desert. If they’re lucky they’ll be able to watch some football at some point Thanksgiving day to feel some connection to life back home.

I don’t want to belittle or disrespect any retail workers who are unhappy with their holiday work schedules. Nobody wants to be away from their family during the holidays. I just would like to encourage anyone who feels like they are getting a raw deal for having to work on Thanksgiving to put things in perspective. There are lots of Americans who would be ecstatic to have a job to go to on Thanksgiving, or any other day. There are lots of people who work in professions other than retail who routinely work holidays their entire careers. Our military, police force, firefighters, health care workers and many more have always had to deal with working through the holidays and nights and weekends. They’ve worked the shifts nobody would want to work and they’ve done it without complaint or expectation of any special dispensation.

If you are working a retail job this Thanksgiving, please think about these other professionals who are also working the holiday and put things in perspective. Happy holidays everyone.

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