The Honor Of Menial Labor

Pierre Fontenot Thursday, June 20, 2019 Comments Off on The Honor Of Menial Labor
The Honor Of Menial Labor

I’m a word guy, which means I have a great fondness for the creativity of black slang.  Years ago, I’m a waiter in a restaurant, and at closing we all had some duties.  I hear these two brothuhs playfully arguing over “who gonna drive da Cadillac.”

Turns out, the Cadillac is the dustpan, gotta be done, and beats taking food scraps to the dumpster.  Good guys, I waited my turn, they even let me drive.

On The Broom End Of The ‘Lac

See that picture of me?  That’s me with the Eighty-one Cadillac.  We’re in a strip center, and on our end are various dumpsters.  Wind blows, trash goes, a lot of it ends up right in front of our store.  


Long before I was an owner of a store, I was a kid, and saw with my own eyes, the grown men of my youth, doing what needed to be done.  

I’ve seen people not raised like me, they don’t stoop to menial, can’t be caught doing something beneath them, and they miss all the good that I got, that there is great honor in never asking someone to do what you won’t do yourself.  

I suppose they weren’t taught the ole foundational truth of the American work ethic – Don’t Ever Watch Someone Else Work.  Either join in, help out, take over or leave.

Nine years ago, my father and I in his car, looking at this Plain Jane building I had just John Hancocked my name to… my father, the preacher, doing what made perfect sense to him, puts one hand on my shoulder, and the other on my knee – I knew a prayer was coming – my father with limits praying to The Father with none, asking God to “bless the endeavor in all aspects.”

He didn’t pray for easy.  Or instant.  Or windfalls.  He didn’t think that way.  “God wants us to pray for our daily bread,” he’d say, “but God expects us to bake it.”  

I am not cut out to work for someone else.  Eighty-one was essentially me creating my own job, and it was an answered prayer, a Daily Bread, but it was upon me to get it daily baked.  

And so I worked.  A lot.  Fun work, boring work, the drag work.  Like answered prayers are, it was good for me in seen and unforeseen ways.  

 There’s A We At Work

Eighty-one was good for a lot of people.  They did their own baking, and added their own flavor.  We created as unique a store as I’ve ever known.  

I don’t have enough fingers to count the customers who were in ‘n out in 30 seconds, bless their hearts, never to return, but for those who “got us”, we were a gift, a place just-for-them, nowhere else in America, but right down the road from their house.

On a certain Monday morning I had something to announce, to a friend who has been side by side from near the beginning of Eighty-one, telling her that I’ve decided to close it down, almost say it in a squeak, can’t hardly utter the words.  

She listens and then says, “I hope you go out strong.”  That was God speaking through her.    

5:Something O’Clock

It’s 5:something in the morning as I write this.  I think a lot of people secretly wonder about self-employment, and if they were to ask me, maybe that’d be a good answer, “It’s 5:something in the morning as I do _____.”   I’ve been 7-days-a-weeking for most of April, May, and that will continue as I walk my store, Eighty-one, down, down, down, to an honorable end.

I appreciate God for blessing the endeavor in all aspects.  It became what it became from labor, with His blessing of the labor, and what else can I do, to meet the honor standard, than to finish strong…  I’ll be driving that Cadillac on the last day.

Eighty-one was a success, in all measurements that matter to me.  It was so much about creativity, that you’d assume I’d be writing about all that gee-golly-wow creativity stuff, but instead I write about menial labor…

…because Eighty-one proved out, what my deceased elders preached to me in my youth, that you can do anything with hard work, that it’s the little-by-little that adds up, that the horse carrying the rider must acknowledge its inferiority to the mule who can pull the plow, all day long…

I hold it to be a truth, evidenced in my own life, and witnessed by observation in the lives of so many come-from-nothings that amounted to something, that work is approved of God, necessary to reveal ourselves, a great even out-er by which the Have Less can Have More.

I remember Mr. Augustine, a sharecropper’s son, thought 10 cents a day was a childhood windfall for working rice levees, barefoot, water moccasins swimming by, nothing to build upon besides his good name, and he ended up owning some grocery stores.  His advice to a grandchild, “When you go to work, and you see a little trash in the parking lot, bend over, and pick it up.  Somebody will notice…”

I encourage all of you, work is your friend.  God does not bake in an unlit stove.  And of all the work, embrace the menial, not as a trap, but as something meaningful to you, earning a confidence that if it all went to hell in a handbasket, you could count on you.  I believe God honors the menial.  It’s a form of obedience, an antidote to pride.

I Also Wrote

During the Eighty-one years I had a second job, as writer.  It too was labor.  I have a Certainty that it is time to give writing my All, my Best.  I believe prayers do not expire.  My father’s prayer remains before God, asking Him to bless their mutually beloved, “in all aspects.”  As I leave one answered prayer and step out in faith (and labor) I know that becoming a serious thinker/writer will be just as Eighty-one was, requiring of me labor, and some of that of the Cadillac status.

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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where the author wonders if he needs to point out the obvious – what is parenting…if not an endless string of menial labor that builds something wonderful? 

Copies of the Bedtime Stories book are available at Eighty-one, 3507 Ryan Lake Charles.  He can be reached

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