I have been watching the mine tragedy in West Virginia unfold over the past week and I am amazed at the resilience of the miners and their families. These men must be really dedicated to their work to be able to go deep down into the earth on a daily basis and risk their lives. They work in darkness, usually in areas where it is impossible to stand up straight (think of standing up in front of your window seat on an airplane while waiting for the aisle to clear – can you imagine working in that position all day?), where there are tremendous hazards, and where your daily work will eventually have detrimental effects on your health. They do all this for what many of us who live in more populated areas of the country would consider a fairly low salary, about $50,000 annually. Of course, that is a high salary when earned in the poverty stricken areas of West Virginia and Pennsylvania and provides them with a decent lifestyle. I think most of us stand in awe of these brave men and their resilient families who daily risk their lives so we can have electricity.
There are many jobs in the US that are high risk and/or high stress and that pay very little. Not all of them have minimum education requirements, either. Teachers and police officers are generally well-educated professionals but their salaries are dismal. Our military members at the lower ranks often have to file for Food Stamps in order to feed their families because their wages are so low. It’s interesting to note something about these professions – teachers, police officers, miners, and military members. There is a high percentage of these professions running in families, meaning sons and daughters often follow their parents into these professions. Military kids enlist when of age. Teachers’ kids become teachers. Cops’ kids become involved in law enforcement. And it seems that miners follow their fathers into the mines.
I think most of us wonder what it would take to get us out of our comfy offices, away from our lattes, and into a coal mine. I know it would take a whole lot more salary than that for me to even visit one, much less work in one. Coal mines are scary places. Those men are very brave and very dedicated to make it their lives’ work. And the steadfastness of their families is incredible.
I hope you will join me in a prayer for those families who lost their men in the mine in West Virginia this week. And in a prayer of thanksgiving that they love their work because if coal mining was left up to office rats like me, we’d all be sitting in the dark for lack of electricity.