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The Limitations Of Labels


Last week, an Australian journalist was quoted in the media as saying that millennial workers lack resilience. She expressed concern over their need for thanks and hugs.

On the same day, our millennial plumber was due to arrive to investigate a leak. Even though we’re isolating during the pandemic, this was an essential repair, and tradespeople were still working.

That morning, he called ahead to let me know he’d be on time. When I opened the door, he was standing on the front doorstep masked-up, next to his new Gen Z apprentice. They were already removing their boots.

‘The last job we were on was messy,’ the plumber explained. ‘We don’t want to trail mud all through your house.’

He made small talk about the only thing anyone is talking about—the virus.

‘A guy working on our last job wasn’t wearing a mask,’ he said. ‘I have heaps in the van. I offered him one, but he wouldn’t take it. It’s up to every one of us to do the right thing.’

The two young men climbed onto the roof. I could hear the older, more experienced one calmly and carefully teaching the younger one as he began to investigate the problem. When they were done, the apprentice asked if he could borrow a dustpan and brush to sweep up before they left.

As they were packing up, I couldn’t help thinking about how much trust I had in these two young men.

Sometimes labels convey meaning. But often they are an unhelpful barrier to mutual respect and shared understanding. The best judge of character isn’t a label prescribed according to the date or circumstances of our birth. It’s how each of us shows up to contribute.

Image by Linus Francis

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