It’s been really, really hot here lately, so this morning I got up early to plant some of my many free tomato plants that I got last week before the heat got to be too much. When I work in the garden with tomato plants, I always think about parenting. That’s because about five years ago I read a comparison between raising children and growing tomatoes that I found valuable that often comes to mind when I’m in the garden.
Being out in the garden is a great time to think, particularly when it’s early and none of the kids are up yet. Today I was thinking about how many blessings come with a lot of work. For example, getting all of these tomato starts for free. Sure, it sounds great to get 180 free plants. But then when you think about having to prepare the soil, plant them, stake them, prune them – does it still seem like a blessing to have gotten so many, or does it seem more like a punishment?
Many of the wonderful bargains I’ve found, like the swing set I just wrote about a couple of days ago, were examples of a blessing that came with a lot of work. And the work alone is often enough to turn most people away from claiming many potential bargains. I think that’s it’s a big challenge for us to appreciate so many wonderful things out there for the gifts that they are because they come with lots of work.
Children are a perfect example of blessings that come with a lot of work, so much so that most people don’t want more than a couple. But children are unquestionably (in my mind, anyway!) the source of more joy than any parent can hope to find anywhere else. But the work involved can be pretty intimidating!
I’m in the middle of reading Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington (along with about six other books I’m in the middle of, lol!). Something that struck me again and again is the emphasis he puts on working hard as a value, as something that is formative in developing character. He says at some point that slavery hurt the white slaveholders even more than the blacks because they got used to having others do basic things for themselves and as a result they never had a chance to work hard. I found his attitude toward hard work very noteworthy – he didn’t look at work as a necessary evil, but as a critical component to personal development.
A good friend recently told me that I have a work ethic like people in the olden days. I laughed and told her I’m nowhere near being able or willing to work like they did, but it’s true that I am willing to put effort into something that I want to accomplish, and it doesn’t generally phase me if it requires a lot of effort. I don’t expect life to be effortless, I don’t expect to live my life with minimal exertion, and I realize that good things often come in packages that aren’t covered in satin and lace – sometimes you have to get out a crowbar to pry off the heavy wooden container covering your gift! I think this is a big reason that I’ve been blessed with so much abundance – because I try to see beyond the work and recognize the value of something.
I was thinking about the times people have told me how ‘lucky’ I am, and reflecting that sometimes people would rather talk about luck than look at all the hard work that went into making that ‘luck’. Life gives every one of us opportunities to exert ourselves for things that are meaningful to us, and working hard for something actually adds value to many things. Even if it doesn’t add value to whatever we’re working on, I think hard work adds value to us by improving our character and helping us grow past our comfort zone.