After a very quiet weekend away from social media I thought I’d share some thoughts about work, dreams, and joy. Sometimes in motherhood and life we can work, work, work and it doesn’t seem to match the dream we once had. It’s still incredibly valued and noble. Be blessed today. ~Rachel
My grandfather was a farmer.
I remember him so well – his face, worn from the sun, freckled, and raw having had peels to remove the skin cancer that his never wearing sunscreen face endured. He was this tall man, with a laugh that filled my soul – a man that knew the value of work with hands rough with callouses but arms always willing to give a hug. As a child I remember sleeping in the front porch of his old white farmhouse, with the screen door that slammed, while the neighbor men worked through the night harvesting. I remember my grandpa leading me through the barns, showing me the stalls for the cows, helping me pet their soft faces, letting me help doing the simplest of chores, and all the time him smiling proud behind me. He’d go to bed late and rise early and I rarely ever heard him complain about life.
He’d wake before the sun on Saturday mornings and would sit and watch cartoons – Bugs Bunny – with me on an old tube tv with a crackly signal and rabbit ears on top.I loved him, that man taken from the world by the vicious beast called pancreatic cancer, the man who loved his family, loved his life, and always worked hard.
He valued work.
I never once heard him talk about how farming was his dream. In fact, I don’t know if it ever was his dream, but farming provided food for his children, for my mother, and as he always told me – it keeps the wolves from the door. In fact, before I got married he even asked my husband to be what he did to keep the wolves from his door. He didn’t ask him what his dreams were, or where he thought he’d get a bunch of fulfillment in life – he asked him a question that basically was about survival and keeping food on the table for a family.
My grandfather lived during the depression. Money was tight, tighter than I could probably ever imagine, and yet he kept on working. And at the end of his life, while he whittled away from cancer, he never complained to any of us about not following his dreams. He was content to work. To live life. To give back. To celebrate family. He was thankful, joyful, for the work that he was blessed to have been able to complete.
I think about the many people in this world, the dad working two jobs and the moms working the late shift and the moms working day after day for their kids and the people doing those jobs that often don’t get that much acknowledgement and I wonder if we celebrate and value that keep the wolves from the door work ethic. My grandfather would think it was a noble thing, really, to work that hard for one’s family. And yet, sometimes I think there are these presuppositions now about work that we’ve truly really made it when we’re working doing something that not only provides incredibly well but is also something that is our passion, our love, our dream.
Do we celebrate the mom who gave up the job that she loved to stay home with her kids? Do we celebrate the dad working at a job that he really hates but he needs to make sure that the money keeps coming in so the wolves stay away? Do we celebrate the value in just simply working?
Sometimes I can see where the scales have covered my eyes. I can see how I’ve judged and how I’ve pushed this idea of chasing the dreams and that having dreams and work intersect perfectly is the pinnacle of earthly success. And yet, sometimes, often times, life is just truly about working very very hard and not receiving much glory. In less than a month I am going to travel to Haiti to help with the rebuilding efforts. I cannot imagine, and I might be very wrong here and if I am I will gladly share it with you, but I cannot imagine sitting in a room with mothers and fathers and grandparents and children who are working hard to simply provide hearing them lament that the job they have isn’t their dream. It’s work. It puts food on the table.
We live in a world, in a country and culture, where sometimes there is this extra space, this pressure, to make sure that whatever we are doing fulfills this greater deeper desire of our hearts. I love that, really. I’m a dream big, go for the gold, shoot for the moon, kind of gal. I get the value, the deep need to live a life that matches our gifts and dreams. But, I’ve also lived a reality where those dreams had to be put on the shelf, where they had to be let go of so that food could come on the table, in those times years ago while my husband underwent cancer treatment and the jobs and dreams flittered away and life was left with humbling work. I found myself making excuses, apologizing, trying to make it all seem like more.
There has to be a balance between embracing work and pursuing dreams and defining a good life.
I want to teach my children the value in work. I also want to teach them to pursue their dreams, to live boldly, and to develop their passions – yes, absolutely. But again, I also truly want them to know that I respect the individual who sucks in pride and works to keep the wolves away from the door doing a job that wasn’t ever on the radar. The thing is – real life happens and it can knock even those with the best plans, noblest intentions, and dreams into spots working at jobs that they never imagined. That doesn’t define them. Is the the gift in simply having work celebrated? In fact, I look at my grandfather, the man who tended and fought the earth for his entire life and I see a man who lived well. He was a man who didn’t complain about work, in fact, he looked at his work as a blessing. A gift. A means to put food on his family’s table.
Work. Dreams. I feel like it can get jumbled together in today’s world. Do I want my children to live a life that is the meshing of all of their amazing talents and makes them money and is their dream? Ideally, and absolutely yes. But, I also want them to be able to live a life and to still find joy, to be like my grandfather – grateful for the ability, freedom, and gift of work.
Sigh. I miss my grandfather terribly. He was the one that called me the city girl – just like in Laura Ingall’s books – because I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis. I know to this day he was thankful for work. There are so many many many people out there, right now, working to do exactly what grandpa worried about – keep the wolves from the door. They have children at home, mortgages or rent to pay, and food to provide. So they give. Of themselves, their time, and their talents. Maybe it was never the dream, but it is a noble thing.
Does joy like my grandfather had come from living the dream life or in being content in the life one was blessed to live?
I don’t know, honestly. It’s like the chicken and the egg question, really. However, there was this deep contentment, this deep joy that resonated from my grandfather. He lived a good life – he worked the land, fought for his family, and died rich – not fiscally, but with memories and those that loved him surrounding his bedside. I wish I could have asked him what his dreams were when he was young and I could have chatted with him about life and dreams and work.
Life is interesting. My grandfather found joy in the simplest things.
I think he had it right.
Carry on today, brave mother.
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