Column: Finding inspiration in ‘The Work We Do’

This week, you’ll want to see “The Work We Do” videos on The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review websites. Both showcase local people on the job, doing the work that gets them up in the morning. In so doing, they show the rest of us that working hard and loving what you do can be a celebration.

We started “The Work We Do” series last summer. The idea was to create a place in the newspapers to highlight people going about their work and talking about what they do here on the North Fork. Since then we have showcased people in a wide range of jobs who joyfully tell us their work stories. There is something fundamental and good and life-affirming in how they describe their work lives.

The stories have appeared both in print and in videos on the papers’ websites. The videos bring another dimension to these stories. One of the first videos we did for The Suffolk Times was about David Steele of Mattituck, one of the North Fork’s last potato farmers. But Mr. Steele does not see himself as the “last” of anything. His life is not about nostalgia. As the video shows, he loves the work he has done since he was very young. Residents of Mattituck and Cutchogue, where Mr. Steele raises potatoes and hay, are better off because he is caring for the land we all value so much.

Another “Work We Do” video showcased Keith Reda of Braun Seafood in Cutchogue. Mr. Reda is lucky to live and work in Cutchogue, but also to be around the extraordinary bounty we receive from our bay and ocean. His joy in working at Braun Seafood comes through. Watch him expertly filet a striped bass. He is a craftsman at work.

Watch the video on Cutchogue piano teacher Ann Welcome, too. She seems to have been born to teach music and piano to students over the generations. And how lucky those students have been to have her as their teacher.

These stories appear in our newspapers each week. But if you are inclined, also click the video category on The Suffolk Times and News-Review websites to watch this week’s video installments of “The Work We Do.” In The Suffolk Times you’ll meet Beth Ficner, security guard at Cutchogue East Elementary School. She’s worked there since 2004 and is on duty by 7:30 a.m. every school day. This is a person who loves her work.

See her on a typical morning as students are dropped off to begin their day. What parent wouldn’t want Ms. Ficner greeting a son or daughter at the curb? She is as vital to the school’s well-being as its teachers and staff. You can be certain that as those kids grow up and move on to high school and beyond, they will not forget Ms. Ficner’s greetings.

On the Riverhead News-Review site, you’ll meet Carolyn Keller, who has been a server at Cliff’s Elbow Room in Jamesport since 1970. Yes, you read that right — 38 years working at a popular North Fork restaurant, taking orders, saying hello to people she has seen for years, cleaning up and going home at the end of the evening.

She begins her video this way: “A normal day here is you come in, do your setup, make sure everything is done right. You come out and you greet your customers, you wait on your customers, and you go back to check on them to make sure everything is OK.”

She also talks about holding a customer’s baby so the mother or father can enjoy dinner. “I’ve held so many babies here,” she says. “I just love my job. I really do; I love my job.”

To many people, work is, well, just work. Something to get through, to endure. For the people showcased in “The Work We Do” series, however, work is a joy. Something to be mastered and done well each and every day. They are an inspiration.

Steve Wick is executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected].