Hurricane Irene wiped out many of the trees around our house. Crushed the neighbor’s car. Obliterated another neighbor’s storage shed that he worked so hard to build last year and knocked down the power lines. As such, Marie and I are camped out at my Mom’s. I’m using this calamity as an excuse to wear shorts to work and to skip shaving this morning.
As I walked to the car, just a block away from the house I was raised in, I flashed back on the Summer I was 9. Here I was 50 years later on a fresh, cool summer’s morn. Dressed in khaki shorts and tennis shoes without socks. It was the early sixties when I began to dress this way; the cool teenagers didn’t wear socks. This casual fashion statement along with my propensity for khakis and polo shirts continues to dictate my wardrobe choices.
Anyway, back to the cool Summer morning. As I walked to car I remembered that this is what I think of when I remember my childhood. The quiet of the day when the adults had gone off to work and the kids hadn’t geared up to yell and holler and romp so as to get the most out of the last few days before we had to go back to school.
The collision of wardrobe, time of day and season have transported me back to one of the happiest times of my life. It was the end of the part of my childhood where all I had to do was fill my days with play. The following summer I went to work carrying brick for my father. In my eyes the Summer I turned 10 was when I was no longer a boy, but a man working among men.
From then on the cool of the early morning was savored even more because you knew the day was going to get hotter and you didn’t get to go home until the job was done.
I hear people talk about kids not having a work ethic today as if we adults were born with work ethics and somehow today’s generation is deficient.
Well, I can’t speak for anyone but my cousins and myself, but after the first day working on a job site with our dads, we didn’t want to be there. We may have asked to go, but once we’d carried brick and mortar all day long we’d had it.
After that first day we slept in the truck on the way home. Got home took a shower and napped before dinner and then went to bed with no argument about could we stay up just a little bit longer.
We learned our work ethic day in and day out beside our fathers, uncles, their employees and one another.
We grew to want to be seen as men among men. Just as we had yearned to be chosen for the baseball team, we grew to want to be chosen as the one who could be trusted to get the job done.
So, for those who see the younger generation as lacking discipline I encourage you to look for opportunities to demand more of them. Give them the chance to work and demand they hang in there. They will rise to our expectations; just as we did. Or have you forgotten the way the old folks used to talk about us when we were young?
I wasn’t born with a “work ethic” and frankly when I was being taught one I didn’t ask for it, desire the gift or appreciate it.
But, I cannot ever thank enough the men who invested their time and energy in teaching me what it meant to be one of them. The people who don’t go home until the job is done.