16 Jan The Power of Work
After the holiday festivities, it can be daunting to buckle down to the work facing us in the New Year. A friend confessed to me this morning, “It’s the middle of January and I still can’t face the big job of putting my Christmas decorations away.” Another friend told me, “I just change the date at the top of my to-do list anymore, because it seems like nothing really gets crossed off.”
Sometimes we want to sit down and give up. But as Utah State Representative Keith Grover explains in today’s alert, work itself can be the very medicine we–and our families–need!
The Power of Work
It was the winter of 1982. A winter just like every other winter that I had experienced before in my young life: cold, very cold. Each morning my farm duties required me to make sure that all of the farm animals were taken care of before I headed down the lane for two miles to meet the school bus for the 55 minute ride into the “big city” to go to school.
At 4:45 a.m. the alarm clock in the converted slaughter house, now a bunk house for three boys in a family of 15, went off and I quickly jumped into my very cold pants and put on my very cold shirt and soaked up a few precious moments of heat from the small space heater at the base of the bunk bed I shared with my twin brother.
After suiting up with boots, coat, gloves, etc. I headed out with my twin brother into the cold dark morning. With the frozen snow crunching under my feet, we made our way to the pigpen to check on our 12 pigs and make sure they were alive and had food for the day.
No pigs were visible, a good sign. All were buried in the straw pile that was their bed. I could see hints of steam in the beam of my flashlight rising from the straw indicating they were cozy and warm. I filled up the pig feeder with pellets and threw in another bale of straw to minimize the muddy mess.
Next to the water trough – the former water heater tank that had been cut in half formed the trough. The trough was full of water, or rather, it was full of ice. Without water in this cold the pigs would suffer, especially at feeding time.
I took out my hatchet and my brother grabbed a hammer and we proceeded to chip the ice out of the trough. This task took approximately a half hour due to temperatures around zero degrees – typical of a January winter in Utah.
While we were chipping and chipping I dreamed of a modern water system that could provide unfrozen water to the animals. I thought of warmer gloves as my hands were freezing. Warmer boots for my now very cold feet. I wished I could be by the fireplace in our home or in my warm bed so recently abandoned. I really desired to be anywhere but there.
We finished our task and filled the trough with water – deep enough to last the day and warm enough, hopefully, to not freeze until we could repeat the process once I got home from school.
I walked into the home for a breakfast of cracked wheat and honey. My dad had just come in from working on the tractor and finishing his tasks before he headed off to work as a professor at a local university, which was needed, since farming never brought in enough money to sustain the family.
“How are the animals?” Dad asked.
“They seem to be fine.” I replied.
“Fed and watered?” Dad continued.
“Yes.” I responded. I then continued. “Dad, taking care of those pigs and horses is a lot of work and it is hard!”
That’s why they call it work
Coming close to me and putting a hand on my shoulder he said, “Yes, work is hard. It isn’t easy to be cold and make sure that the animals are set for day. That is why they call it work – work is what will make you a man.”
I have thought about those many days and years of work and agree that work has truly taught me what I believe it is to be a man: responsible, diligent, honorable, trustworthy, and willing to, well, work!
It is important for all of us to analyze whether, as parents, we are teaching our children how to work and the value of work. In a study by Wray-Lake, et al. (2011) of high school seniors it was discovered that over the period of the study there has been a decline in the importance of work. Furthermore, the study finds that the desire for work that includes leisure time has increased.
The consequences of our children not knowing how to work or not being willing to work are analyzed in depth by Cassner-Lotto & Barrington (2006) in their comprehensive study analyzing the work ethic and work readiness of today’s youth. The four participating organizations in the study jointly surveyed over 400 employers across the United States. These employers articulated the skill sets that new entrants—recently hired graduates from high school, two-year colleges or technical schools, and four-year colleges—need to succeed in the workplace. Among the most important skills cited and of greatest concern to employers is professionalism/work ethic.
Questions we should ask ourselves
- What are the values of hard work?
- Am I a hard worker?
- Is work important to me?
- Do my children know how to work?
- Do my children understand the value of work?
- How does the understanding of work impact my family?
Work builds confidence and provides security. Furthermore, hard work helps us to appreciate the fruit of our work whether it is the completion of a task or the compensation that comes with a job well done.
A well thought out article by Trent (2011) declares:
The exact nature of hard work has changed over time. Physical labor was once highly valued, but has dropped somewhat in value in recent years simply because many physical jobs are now completed by machinery. Today, intellectual work is much more highly valued, particularly in the first world, because there is incredible value in figuring out innovative uses of resources. Whenever I see the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder,” I cringe. I agree with the first part – working smarter is certainly worthwhile. However, if you merely work smarter to accomplish what you were already doing, you’re going to eventually fall behind those who actually work harder, too. The key to success is to work smart and work hard.
Three months after those cold winter mornings I went with my father to the junior livestock show to parade my now grown pigs and hope for the highest score from the bidders surrounding the auction ring. As I guided my pig around with my hooked cane I felt immense pride and satisfaction.
I had spent many hours working hard to make this day happen. This experience and many others have provided me with the foundation I needed to persevere in other life challenges that we all meet.
I invite you to reflect on what work means to you and experiences that you have had what hard work has taught you. If applicable, I also invite you to consider what opportunities you can provide your children, young or old, to work and receive the benefits that come from a job well done.
Dr. Keith Grover is has served eight years in the Utah House of Representatives. His award nominated dissertation uncovered the reality and destructiveness of racism among students in our public schools. He is currently a public school administrator helping adolescent students succeed at Oak Canyon Junior High School. He is married to Dr. Julie Grover and they are the parents of five children.
Casner-Lotto, Jill; Barrington, Linda. (2006). Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce. Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
Trent, A. (2011). The Simple Dollar. http://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-changing-value-of-hard-work.
Wray-Lake, Laura; Syvertsen, Amy K.; Briddell, Laine; Osgood, D. Wayne; Flanagan, Constance A. (2011). Exploring the Changing Meaning of Work for American High School Seniors from 1976 to 2005. Youth & Society, v43 n3 p1110-1135 Sep 2011