Hard Work is in My DNA

Ann St. Railroad Station in Parkersburg, WV circa 1936.

Ann St. Railroad Station in Parkersburg, WV circa 1936.

I come from a family of hard workers. Whether it was toiling in fields to provide for our family or marching through fields to provide for our country, our family has had a long tradition of working hard. 

One such example of this hard work is the story of my great-grandfather, Harry Smith.  Harry was a man who tirelessly spent his whole career working for B & O Railroad.  Everyday, he punched in and out.  There he not only worked, but he grew from a boy to a man and from a man to an old man.  Still, he was loyal.  His labor never tired.  He was old but he worked at twice the pace of much younger men. His hands grew callused and his heart grew weary, but his spirit never diminished. 

Finally, the day of his retirement had come.  “It will be strange to leave the confines of this company,” he had thought, a company that had grown to be so much a part of who he was.  Still, he set about climbing the rickety stairs of the old Ann St. railroad station in Parkersburg, WV to fill-out his retirement papers.  When he finally reached the top, he approached the window, and told them his name.  Before the person at the window could gather the appropriate paperwork, Harry fell over dead.  Heart attack. 

Later that week, on the same day of my great-grandfather’s funeral, my grandmother received a bill from the doctor’s office.  Harry had visited the doctor a few days before, and the bill of health they returned?  Well, it clearly stated that Harry’s health was fine and his heart?  Finer than fine.  Though this story lives in a dense forest of irony, the fact is, my grandfather, like many generations of my family, labored tirelessly, giving of the sweat of their brow, the strength of their backs, and even the very last beat of their heart.  Why?  Because they understood the importance of hard work, and even when that meant giving of their self, they knew that the legacy they were building for their family was worth way more than a paycheck.