Labor Day Addendum: Welders, Blacksmiths and the Book of Sirach

Consider the farmer whose mind is set on the furrows that he plows. He stays up late, tending the cattle. Consider, also, the blacksmith. The fire scorches his skin and the din of the hammer deafens his ears, yet he is intent on the tool he is shaping. (Sirach 38:25-26, 28)

After heaping praise on scribes and scholars of the Law, the author of the Book of Sirach, like a well-intentioned career counselor, interrupts his promotion of “higher” education to include a few comments about vocational training.

Better late than never, I suppose. Then, again, words seldom convey a complete picture. My Labor Day post provides a good example of similar incompleteness. While spotlighting long hours and extreme heat, it failed to mention the danger that refinery welders sometimes face when on the job.
After reading my Labor Day post, a good friend and retired refinery worker texted me the following description of a harrowing work assignment. With his permission I share it with you:

We have welders who repair cracks in the quench section of reactors. The reactors run at 3000 degrees while the quench sections run at 1200 degrees. The welders wear suits that circulate cold water around their bodies. In just ten minutes the ice-cold water turns to boiling. So the welders need to be changed out every five to eight minutes.

I don’t know if Mike Rowe ever mustered the courage to take his film crew inside a refinery, but his efforts on behalf of the working class always impressed me.

Honoring the hard work of ordinary people expands a community’s sense of pride and gratitude. In the words of Sirach:

 Such workers depend on their strength and each one is wise in his work. Without them, a city cannot be built, nor would there be any traveling near or far. They are not prominent in the assembly, nor do they occupy the judge’s bench, yet they maintain the state of the world. (38:31-34)

So, all you welders, cashiers, mechanics, programmers, orderlies, linemen, cooks, truckers and everyone else with tired feet and aching backs…thanks!
We rely on you!

09 / 18 / 2023
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