The Folks You Never Thank on Thanksgiving

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Everyone loves to rant against Black Friday, the unofficial shopping holiday that has started to creep further and further into the preceding Thanksgiving holiday every year. Whether it’s the idea of having to work on a holiday, the notion of hideously awkward hours for retail employees, or the disgust with the over-commercialization of a holiday season meant to be about home and hearth, most folks generally dislike the fact that retail employees work on Thanksgiving and the Friday afterward. But the folks who like to talk (and balk) big time about the poor employees working retail never stop to think about the people whose jobs require them to work every night, weekend, and holiday.

My husband is a broadcast television engineer. For a full decade he missed out on virtually every holiday while working everything from graveyard to weekend to off-hour shifts in order to grow in his profession. He was never paid overtime. His weird schedule extended far past one day a year. And he isn’t alone. Medical professionals, emergency services, and broadcasting professionals are a few of the many whom our culture takes for granted when it comes to defending an employee’s right to have a day off. After all, what would Thanksgiving be for many American families if they couldn’t crowd around the television and watch football?

Speaking as the daughter of a nurse and the wife of a television professional, nothing can make up for time lost. Sure, we’ve done dinners the next day or have gotten together the weekend afterward with family and friends. But some things can’t be rescheduled. It’s one thing to think you can eat a turkey on Saturday instead of Thursday, but it’s another thing to try and replicate a Jewish holiday like Yom Kippur, Passover, or even Shabbat. Those rare occasions when you look forward to gathering with a congregation or your distant family members aren’t easy to schedule. The folks who do get the holiday off are rarely able to take an extra day just to catch up with the one family member they happened to miss.

My husband has never once asked for sympathy, let alone pity. When he walks into university classrooms to lecture on the profession, he always begins by asking the students if they think they’ll get their nights, weekends, and holidays off when they enter the working world. Most students invariably raise their hands. He then tells them to seriously reconsider their chosen profession. To the wives and family members of those who have dedicated their careers to professions with terrible working hours, I can only say: hang in there. Why do you think the divorce rate is so high among medical professionals, law enforcement, and yes – television folk? Know when you marry your spouse you’re marrying his or her job, too. And be determined to make it work by making the most of the time you have together.

So while the folks on social media rant once again about those poor retail employees this holiday season, I’ll simply be making my usual post of thanks to those who sacrifice of their time so we can be safe, healthy, and yes – even enjoy that football game with a slice of pumpkin pie.