Power Words for July the 31st: Hard Work

“I believe strongly in hard work.” said practically everyone. We all believe in hard work. Hooray for hard work!

How true is this idea? Surely, we appreciate a person doing their best in whatever profession, when we’re in the consumer seat. Likewise, we feel best about ourselves when, in our career, we fully apply ourselves and refuse to sit idle. On the other hand, hard work is perhaps, an oversimplification of the real world metrics of what a person does. These thoughts may, however, be rooted in my specific experience.

My father was an ardent defender of the virtue inherent to hard work. “Boy, a man can move mountains, as long as he’s trying hard enough!” he’d say, in enthusiasm or anger depending on the events of that day. This was not simple philosophy, but a design he applied to everything he did. My father was never a religious man, but still insisted upon using the stairs in any tall building on the grounds that elevators were, “The work of evil forces.” Though he understood certain limitations (such as our inability to manage our home as a self-sustaining farm) he had very strict rules. He refused to purchase pre-sliced bread. When my brother once came home from college with a load of Wonderbread, my father beat him severely with it. Then made him eat each slice.

Of all my father’s rules and notions of hard work, one remains particularly tragic. Far ahead of modern day environmental concerns, he saw the automobile as a wasteful, needless machine. Eventually, when his “career” made local travel necessary, he went to his workshop and emerged five days later with what he termed the “Feiling 500.” It was a wooden box, with four wheels, that approximately resembled a car with room for six passengers. However, the vehicle had no floor in the places where the legs or driver and passengers sat. It was capable of steering, but the thing had no motor or transmission. It was to be powered by good-old-fashioned-foot-work. In other words, the occupants would move the car by pattering their feet on the exposed road. If this technology sounds familiar, you perhaps remember it from television’s The Flintstones, though my father would enter into rage blackouts anytime somebody made the suggestion that this was his inspiration.

One Sunday, we children all climbed into the vehicle to go to the grocery store. We were all under 12, but one did not require a license to operate the thing. Another benefit, according to my father, who labeled child labor protections as “Pussyism.” It was raining, and the car had neither windows nor a roof, but luckily my father saw being soaked in rain as admirable evidence of one’s toughness. On the way home, the vehicle began to slide on a muddy hill. My sister Katechelle, brothers Tortoise and Showman, and I, wildly beat our feet against the ground trying to reclaim it, but it was no use. We rolled off the road and down a rocky slide. When the car slammed to a stop, and I had my bearings enough to look around, I saw that my sister’s right leg had been crushed, and my brother Tortoise’s left had as well.

That was the last day we used the Feiling 500. My father never repaired it. As a show of goodness, my father now only assigned one child’s work to split between the unipedal Katechelle and Tortoise, but also treated them as one person in all other respects, such as food rations. They were happy just the same. His rhetoric about hard work went on, unchanged, as though the disaster had never occurred.

When I hear my fellows sing the praises of hard work, I often reflect on this story. I wonder if my family had been derelict enough to have engaged in the gluttony of Buick ownership, would my kin and I have a greater total of limbs today? But again, this is only my experience. I can offer only that.

Power Words:

Today I will excuse myself from working so hard, and diffuse or intimidate my critics with sad anecdotes.

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