When my dad and I showed up, the large, filthy dumpster was already a quarter of the way full. My grandpa directed us to start helping out in the garage. So out came tacky decorations, useless nuts and bolts, weights that probably were used less than three times, rotten furniture, and heaps of dusty clothes.
There to help us was the late owner’s son Jonathan and his friend. I stood next to my dad near the garage as these two struggled to carry a broken and filthy recliner, which had been sitting far too long in the garage, down the driveway. They stumbled to the base of the dumpster and paused to survey the six vertical feet they needed to lift their burden. They were both in their sixties. Time had taken a lot from these two. They were good for very little, like the chair they were carrying. As they lifted the recliner it hit the side of the dumpster and came right back down on Jonathan’s head, shaking the awful dust over him. He emitted some foul language, but they continued to wrestle with the chair and eventually got it in. They came back up the drive towards me, grumbling and complaining like a pair of old, wrinkled teenagers. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
I later found out that the house was to be sold, and Jonathan was to find a new place to live. He had no job, no skills to speak of, few friends, and the family he had didn’t want to speak to him. I wondered to myself how somebody can end up in that situation at such an age.
I look back with shame at all the times as a young man that I sat playing video games for hours and hours. All the times when I didn’t look for a job because I didn’t want one and didn’t feel that I needed one. Now I can fully see how life can turn up so utterly wasted. If I had carried on with that lifestyle I would be the same as Jonathan; the oarsman in society’s boat that refuses to row.
Instead, I have come to realize that there is no happiness in idleness. Feeling competent is one of our most fundamental and most human desires. Our abilities are one of our most precious resources. There is a certain dignity in hard, even menial work; because all work must be done. On the other hand, those who do nothing trade their independence and self respect for a hand-out.
There is so much to do in this world! So much happiness to be gained! I am grateful that I was taught to work hard by my father, but even more than that, I was taught what sort of things are truly worth the time and effort.
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