Indigenous Salvadoran woman from Panchimalco

Work Ethic

March 4, 2015

Work Ethic

When I was quite a young woman working for my daily bread in a warehouse business that sold lighting, fixtures, cable and assorted equipment for illumination there came a day of intense transformation for me.

There was a brilliant 5 minutes of the time I was there when several quite significant things happened. I had been hired to learn the business with the offer that after 3 months training, my wages would double from the pittance that would just get me by while I was getting up to speed. When I went upstairs to talk to the boss about the deal, it became clear in about 90 seconds that this self satisfied troll was never going to see me as a valuable asset to his business and that he was never going to pay me the offer made.

At the top of my voice, I retorted when he told me I was fired, that he was much too late: I quit before I even walked up these stairs!

It was a defining moment that kept me from making that foolish mistake ever again. I have never again worked for the trolls.

Here in countries south of the United States border there is an entirely different work ethic. The euphemism called the ‘economy’ is quite a different matter than what is going on in the US. While I am certain there is a professional class of people going to office jobs in banks, government offices, hospitals, other types of businesses, most of the people are simply working for themselves.

All along the highways in Mexico, in each town, there were lean-to shelters made of the branches of trees and roofed with palm leaves or plastic. Within these places people sat with their wares: cocoanut, peanuts, fruits, assorted plastic goods, sometimes vegetables and corn. They flocked at the topes where it was necessary for auto traffic to slow slow down: the youngsters were hawking everything and sometimes offering to wash your windshield while you passed for a peso or two.

This phenomena was to be noticed everywhere I drove even through the larger towns and along the libre highways, anywhere there was an excuse to sell something.

Here in El Salvador, the alley is alive in the mornings as the lady up from here readies her bicycle trolley with an ice bucket, fruits some of which she has already cut and bagged and placed on the ice. She takes off about 10 in the morning and comes home pushing the whole contraption up the alley about dusk.

There are many different people who come up the alley shouting out their wares and inviting us to buy: bread and pastries; hair bobs, brushes, combs and other adornments; fresh vegetables and fruits; sometimes even children’s clothing as there are a couple of very young ones here about. Each of these people have large baskets balanced on their heads over a knot of cloth that keeps their head from bruising. Imagine that each of these burdens is carried above a straight body and a quick step over the stony ground.

There are people who have come up in the world a little. They have been able to somehow acquire motor taxis. These hardy vehicles are motorcycles with a platform in behind over two wheels and a seat often with a canopy above. They can carry at least two grown persons and a couple of kids. They are used just about everywhere I have been in Central America for the up the block trips with an armload of groceries or across the town to the next bus stop.

The young man who came to do a very big service on my van today came from Guatemala on the back of George’s bike. He is known here all the way to Cara Soucia and in southern Guatemala for his mechanic’s ability. He arrived at 8:30 this morning and worked most of the day doing a magical wonder to restore the van to his youth for $75.00. I also gave him a Pak-lite which is a laser light on a 9 volt battery to assist him to see in the dark reaches of the engines he works on. He tells me he is ready to come to Ecuador to be a mechanic on the plantation; all I need to do is let him know! Is that fun?

These are each and all of them sincere, wholesome very hard working people but their work is not a burden to them. They do not resent the boss: they are the boss. They work for their families. George goes to the border daily to use his fluency in English to assist travelers and others to navigate the crossing. Whatever money he brings home with him is shared by everyone here, including me when I was waiting for my money trip to be sorted out.

What I am saying here is that happiness and contentment happen along with the work, along with the camaraderie of fun and delight that goes with the services they perform for their neighbors. Sure, it is hard work, there are often long hours, but the attitudes are light and everyone enjoys themselves.

Seems to me that this is a formula for happiness and contentment much bigger than the getting and spending game I have watch for so many years. Check it out for yourself: what is it that truly brings you fulfillment? Go with that!

And please, as I am sending you these small offerings, please send them on to all your friends. Perhaps, just perhaps, some of these ideas will take root in you and in your world. I’m on my way to Ecuador to plant them there and you are welcome to participate with me. Email me anytime at and I will respond with the information you are seeking. And, please, have a beautiful day.