Gina Murdock: Don’t forget to say please and thank you

Gina Murdock
Lead with Love
Gina Murdock

When I moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2004 I remember spending that first Christmas alone. I was doing what so many have to do around here working three jobs to make enough money to live. Bartending late into the night, teaching skiing by day and doing massages or catering in any free time between. I was a servant to all the rich and fabulous people on vacation using Aspen as their playground. At the time, I was young and energetic and it didn’t bother me too much. Until it did.

That Christmas, after running from one job to the next, waking before dawn to ride the bus up valley and then down again in the wee hours of the night, I unexpectedly had Christmas day off. Because my partner and I were both in the service industry we worked overtime during the holidays to make enough money to make it through the offseasons. We were so busy we didn’t bother to decorate our house, buy presents, hang stockings or have any family over to bake colorful cookies. We worked so much we often got sick in the new year instead of a new gym membership.

I’ll never forget waking up that Christmas morning alone in my empty house. I didn’t have to run to grab the bus. I didn’t have to serve some other people. I had the day off. I was tired, but I couldn’t sleep. I could only feel the loneliness of not being with family, not creating my own traditions in a warm and cozy house full of love like my mom and dad did. That type of love and care for a space required time and energy that I didn’t have.

Sacrificing my own well-being and belonging to relentlessly work for others so they could enjoy the holidays with their families started to feel unfair, although I needed the money and was grateful for work. I imagine a lot of people working in Aspen these days feel that way, grateful for work, yet resentful at the ever widening gap of haves and have nots.

I’ve talked to business owners and families recently in the U.S. and abroad and they all say the same thing with a perplexed and exasperated tone: “We can’t find any employees. Nobody wants to work.”

I don’t think it’s so much that people don’t want to work. For most, the wake up call of COVID and the global shutdown gave us that collective pause to reassess. Is this how I want to live my life? Am I willing to continue to run like a rat in a maze to serve other people who are becoming more and more demanding while sacrificing my own warm and cozy home? My kids? My health?

We’ve hit a breaking point and every employer knows it. Small businesses can’t afford to do what needs to be done and they are disappearing and along with them the charm and character of our idyllic resort towns across the globe. Big business can and must do better, but with a singular bottom line they’ve proven they won’t unless forced by government regulations or maybe, just maybe, the average Joe/Jane sitting around alone in an empty house on Christmas who finally says “NO!” I will not work for your profit and comfort at the expense of my health and family.

We desperately need a genuine culture shift that truly values people and planet versus the asinine blame game between Democrats and Republicans playing out in the daily news. This is just a distraction from the real issue, which is a collective amnesia that we are all one. We are in this together, inexorably linked. It’s up to all of us to show up differently to create this shift in consciousness.

Starting with acknowledgment of the essential workers is the bare minimum. Please, thank you, patience, warmth and understanding goes a long way. Remember that the employees who are showing up to work may feel lonely, depleted, overwhelmed and likely lack good health care and housing. The spirit of Christmas is about sharing love and goodwill toward others. The next time someone serves you, if you are one of the lucky ones to be served in any way, give thanks in all the ways you can — in your eyes, heart, and, of course, with abundant love and tips.

Gina Murdock is the founder of Lead with Love, an Aspen-based nonprofit dedicated to shifting culture from fear to love. For more information about Lead with Love, go to For those that need support and a physical place to connect, Aspen Chapel is non-denominational and has several beautiful offerings. You can email them at with specific requests regarding food, shelter, love and support.