By Matt Cutugno
Indio, CA, USA
One of my early childhood memories is of my father saying (either to me or to some adult present), “I want my kids to have everything I never had.” A lot of parents would agree, they’d like their children to “have it all,” and to that end, they strive to remove as many struggles as they can from their kids’ lives.
As the adage goes, watch what you wish for. Does a child, or anyone, benefit from not having to work hard, or from getting everything they want?
My wife occasionally laments that we don’t have a housekeeper. She notes that she would rather sit around doing nothing, and have someone work for her. I listen patiently as she opines, as I don’t believe she actually means it. I remind her that housekeeping, if done in earnest, can be a form of exercise, which is especially beneficial, as we grow older. Exercise releases endorphins, which generate feelings of well-being. I kiddingly tell her I wouldn’t want a housekeeper to feel better than we do.
Some refer to chores as drudgery. Personally, I like to clean, I don’t mind doing dishes or the laundry. I enjoy sweeping my patio, raking leaves, and trimming my wife’s spreading rose bushes. I envy the fellows we hire once a year who climb the palm trees in our back yard and lop off fronds with a machete. That looks like fun, and good exercise.
I have fond memories of sharing time with my father near the end of his life. He’d tell me stories about growing up during the hard times of the 1930s. His parents, Italian immigrants, moved to Port Reading, New Jersey, which was then a rural community across the Arthur Kill from Staten Island, New York. The family lived hand-to-mouth, but my Dad and his friends would fish in the waters of the Arthur Kill, and catch crabs. In the open fields, they’d play ball, and feast on the berries that grew along the banks. There was a plant that my father called “lettuce leaves”, and he and his pals would roll up the leaves into a sandwich and eat that.
He had his brothers and sisters, family and friends, and all had plenty of fresh air and open space to live, work, and play in. True, they had to walk a few miles from Port Reading to Woodbridge when they wanted to “go into town.” And there was no governmental help for them, neither welfare nor food stamps. Yet they managed to make it through the Great Depression healthy and happy enough.
Compare this to the attitude of people today. “Struggle” means having to travel by mass transit instead of having your own new car. “Hard times” is realizing you need a part-time job to support yourself while you attend college, or being told that you actually have to repay your student loan. Instead of illiteracy being an immense challenge for our populace, obesity is.
It should be obvious that work is its own reward. It builds character and develops the discipline that comes in handy on other occasions throughout our lives. Hard work is not hard, it just takes the proper commitment and attitude.
Drudgery, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.