Exhausted and covered in bug bites, I collapsed into bed with a sense of accomplishment that can only come from hard work. Circumstances have dictated that I mow our lawn with a push mower. I mean a PUSH mower. No motor, no electric or gas driven parts. Just some well-oiled ball bearings and man power gets this baby going. Might I add the date “1906” is stamped on this gorgeous, if a bit rusted, machine. I’m pretty sure it is that old.
Earlier in the day, while I was mowing, and sweating, and itching, I got to thinking. (Thinking is easy when your body is moving and there is silence except of the swish-swish of the ancient blades.) My mind started turning at the same rate as the mower about all of the work that needed done in the yard and how, when they get home, my twin sons would be drafted into service. Complaining and grumbling were in the foreseeable future, which sent my thoughts in a whole new direction.
My kids are afraid of hard work. (Insert embarrassed vocalization here) My grandparents and their contemporaries were hard workers; they knew it was a part of life. A part of life that we now consider “simple” or “the good old days,” In reality, things are simpler now than they ever have been. We drive cars with automatic shifting, get food from drive through windows and connect with “friends” through tiny hand held devices that can also text, email, play movies, and call your mother. Things have never been so easy. But that’s the root of the problem. We have become so simple there’s no depth to living.
Life in the ‘30s and ‘40s, when my grandparents were coming up, was hard. Really hard. There was still no electricity in many places, no running water (my mom has not so fond memories of the freezing outhouse at HER grandparent’s house in Minnesota). My family has always been rural folk. Establishing roots in Nebraska and elsewhere around the mid-west, I’m not sure what life was like in the cities during this time, but I can guess it wasn’t any easier just different. If kids wanted money, they sold newspapers or shined shoes, or helped at the grocers. There was value to a dollar and value to a day’s labor.
There was also a beautiful routine to life. Farm families got up before the sun to milk the cows or feed the animals, then breakfast, then school for the youngsters and more work on the land for the adults. After school, there were chores suited for the children and then dinner preparation, then bed. City families got up early as well in preparation of the hustle and bustle of the day. Idleness was not in their blood as it is in ours.
We want everything to come so easy for us. Unfortunately, we’ve passed that on to a whole new generation. When I was growing up I can remember singing at the top of my lungs from the monkey bars. Knowing, KNOWING, a talent agent would be walking down my street in Scottsbluff, NE (that was my first mistake) and immediately book me for a leading role in a Broadway musical. I didn’t want to work for my dream. I wanted it handed to me in a New York minute. Where did this come from? And sadly, it’s something I’ve inadvertently passed down. I don’t know how to change what’s going on, but I know it needs to change.
Fast forward to present day. All three big kids pitched in to help me remove the massive pile of sticks and limbs that had recently fallen. There were few complaints and one child found his own work gloves without being prompted. Only one gave up a wee bit earlier than the others. Hard work is rewarding work. If I can teach them that, maybe there's hope for them after all.