I've mentioned this before, but it is probably important to repeat the story.
My Grandpa Brown, or "Grandpa Red" as we called him (because his hair was cardinal red and his Air Force nickname just stuck past his service days) worked for Southern Bell after the second world war.
He came home from the war frazzled and addicted. A bit of alcohol helped him get into a plane again and again and again during the war. All the flyboys did it. Tail gunners, after all, had a life expectancy of four missions by some accounts, and while my grandfather didn't man the tail (his post was a gun mounted on the side), he was shot down seven times. He survived each crash. No wonder he drank.
Stories came down through the family of how, some nights, he'd grab my grandmother from her sleep and hold her tight and say, "We're going to hit soon. Just hold on, we'll hit soon..." No wonder he drank.
So he left the war but the war never left him, and eventually he had to give up drinking altogether. The war didn't kill him; the bottle was going to.
But hanging around home directly after the war neither sober nor employed wouldn't do. My Great-grandmother Brown, a feisty farmer in northern Florida, sent him away to get a job. And so he did, with Southern Bell. The union wage gave him a good life, a great retirement, and the undying conviction that 40 hours is a week's work, no need to put in more for regular service.
I wonder what he'd think of the standard work week being 60+ now for so many...home by 5 and dinner by 6 is a dream today, as is the 9am whistle for the start of the workday.
This story paints some of my personal baggage as I approach this week's Gospel lesson, the so-called "Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard." Go ahead and read it by
Done? Good. Onward.
A better title for it might be, "Parable of the People Who Worked Less Than Others in the Vineyard," because that's all we focus on. We focus on those folks who got a sweet deal by accepting the same wage as those who worked more hours. Fairness is important to us workers, and should be. It was important to my grandfather, too.