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.