Wednesday, September 5, 2007

hard work

I just finished reading The Good Earth a couple weeks ago and it's been on my mind so much lately I just have to write down my thoughts before they fade away. I love this book. I read it years ago and have ever since claimed it as my favorite book. But lately I couldn't even remember why (that's how good my memory is) so I talked my book club into having it for our book last month.

I guess one of the reasons it affected me so much this time is because I love the correlation it gives between hard work and happiness. To put it simply, when the main character is working hard he is so fulfilled and satisfied. Things around him work together for good. When he's idle and gets caught up in his riches and forgets how working hard on the land makes him whole, things fall apart.

And it worried me that I'm raising kids in such an affluent generation where hard work isn't such the norm anymore (at least not where I live). I often smile to myself as I walk into the gym...I picture my great great grandma walking in there and wondering what in the world all these people are doing running around in place and lifting weights. People back then got such a workout from life they didn't need stuff like that. Then I think of my own generation where kids had to ride their bikes or walk to get where they needed/wanted to go, had to mow their own lawns and had to earn their own money. Now I watch parents drive their kids everywhere (including me), these kids with wallets full of money given to them who have time to waste playing video games or watching TV while cleaning ladies dust the furniture around them.

I have to back up and say of course there are so many wonderful examples of hard workers still, and so many kids are so darn responsible it makes me drool because I wish my kids were more that way, but it just scares me the direction society's moving. I know times have changed, and it's scary to let kids roam most neighborhoods on their bikes and kids are so busy taking classes or with extracurricular activities that they don't have time to clean their own bathrooms for pete's sake, but that makes me sad. I'm not sure how to find the balance.

There are things I want my kids to have...great vacations together as a family, a nice place they can call home, lots of great books to read, classes to boost their coordination, musicality, self-esteem, etc. But I also want to help them find the joy involved with working HARD to earn a new book or toy they're dying for, have them walk or ride their bikes to school (even when there's a bus available) and realize how thankful they are for a body that works so well, watch them tear up when they realize they've helped someone who really needed them after they've given selfless service, feel the full heart that comes with giving up something important to them because someone else needs it worse, and letting them lose themselves in the joy and satisfaction that comes from hard work. And the question is how do I give these, the most important things, to them? How do I make life harder in order to make it better?

Random thoughts...it's late and I hope I'm making sense. I guess the bottom line is that there's nothing like sitting back together after a Saturday's hard work and taking pride in how the house smells and looks, how beautifully manicured the yard is, and realizing that we've done it all ourselves...we've worked so hard and now we can really play. That kind of hard work gives a high that I want my kids (and Dave & I) to have more of. That's what The Good Earth taught me this time around.

{More reviews on The Good Earth here.}
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