Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Work

Over the break I watched the HBO series on John Adams. And loved it. But that's not entirely the point. I have considered myself grateful for what my predecessors have done, especially those founders and pioneers of this nation. But it wasn't until I watched John Adams that my naivety began to haunt me. Somehow, through all the historical books, movies, and sites, the gravity of it all escaped me. I did not know fully see what I ought to be grateful for because I did not fathom all that had been given nor what I owed at the sacrificers' hands.

What struck me was how hard working they all were - the endless amount they were willing to give for a cause they cared about. For all intents, the tasks before them were insurmountable. Yet they carried on with singularity of purpose. Men sacrificed years away from families, their health, their lives. Women were left alone to work the farms, take care of sick and dying children, fend off invaders, suffer from loneliness. They knew how and were willing to work for long, often indefinite periods of time, to enjoy their desired end result.

I often wonder if we have that same know-how, perseverance and willingness to pay the price for what we want. Speaking of Americans, I'm not sure we have the patience or a large enough dose of that quaint little virtue called hard work. It's interesting, though, because in some ways, I view Americans as an insanely workaholic people - but that's typically in the workplace. That kind of hard work often entails longer and longer hours - working for the sake of working rather than working hard and determinately to achieve a goal or desire.

Lack of true hard work, the immediacy of results, and the unchecked fulfillment of desires are at the root of many problems today. These things impede our ability to appreciate what we get. Ingratitude and undervaluing, in turn, affect the way we treat others and the things around us. Little effort with big returns causes a discordance that perhaps we are uncomfortable with at a basic level. For example, to communicate with one another, all we have to do these days is type a few words and press a button. The ease of communicating is wonderful, but can also cause us to undervalue our communication with each other. We can become casual or even recalcitrant in our relationships. Our lack of patience breeds impatience, while our lack of hard work engenders higher expectations.

I think part of the struggle is finding a way to use and appreciate the things that make life easier, while still maintaining a strong work ethic and being deliberate about valuing the things we have.

3 comments:

Brian and chelsea said...

I think environment and circumstance forcibly produced (or at least encouraged) these characteristics you describe in our ancestors. I believe we inherently are drawn to that which requires the least effort yet produces the desired result. Physiologically it's true - our bodies will take the path of least resistance. Hence, millions (billions?) have poor posture.
Another example: Brianna now refuses to nurse since she has discovered the bottle. It's much less work on her part, yet she still gets the goods.

Excuse me while I go microwave my frozen dinner.

Erin said...

you know, i have been thinking about this a lot lately -- how to accomplish something good in the world takes a whole lot of work.

the problem is how to balance family obligations with that. i haven't seen the adams documentary yet, but was he a very good father???

it's really tough because i would like to have a rewarding career and would like to do something good in the world. at the same time, emotionally i don't want to be away from my husband and son very much, and then on top of that all of the religious admonitions that, especially as a woman and mother, i feel to put my family first. so it's really tough. most really successful people i know aren't the best parents, though i'd love for you to point me to some examples!!!

Jecca Lee Ivie Johnson said...

I figure God makes the things that are worthwhile a LOT of work. He wants us to toil, by the sweat of our brows. My Dad is the hardest worker I know. He keeps things in balance but when he works, he doesn't waste a minute of time. If only everyone in this country could put in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, simply because it's the right thing to do. Then we would never be facing the economic crisis that we have gotten ourselves into.