When I was a boy, only half of my age now, I would play on my family’s chicken farm. In my breaks from the imaginary story line that only a young boy could create for himself, I watched my father perform the tedious tasks that keep chicken houses running at top efficiency. These houses are designed to raise a chicken from birth, age it until its body weight is appropriate, then ship it off to be consumed. At that age I never considered the difficulty of his work, only how fiercely he dedicated himself to it. It seemed then like feeding the chickens and maintaining the houses was his purpose, just as battling imaginary foes was mine. He spent every bit of light that the sun would offer in a day to farm a living for himself and for his family. The man is a prime example of hard work, and what I believe all men should strive to be.
As I grew older I received plenty of opportunities to help around the chicken houses. I grew to be six feet and two inches tall with a weight of about two-hundred and fifty pounds. I was a perfect soldier for my father to enlist in his everyday battle. It took only a day of truly hard work to figure out how tough my father had to be everyday. All the things I had watched him do, like picking up the dead chickens and removing them from the house, seemed like such simple tasks until I was the one having to do them. Only after days of endless sweating did I adapt to the stress this kind of work had on the body. After my satisfied father and I saw a larger output of chickens than before, we could both rest and worry a little less about the next bunch.
He still does the same grueling work today, at the age of fifty-six, that he has done my whole life. Whenever I’m back home I offer to help him work in the chicken houses, and he always gets the same enthusiastic attitude about all the things we can get accomplished the following day. Then I wind up sleeping until noon because he never woke me. I ask him why he doesn’t wake me up to go help him anymore and he replies, “I figure you ain’t been gettin much sleep with all your studyin and schoolin and whatnot. Wasn’t too much to do anyways.” So now I set an alarm and force myself to wake up on those wonderful days and I help my father. I think he really appreciates that more. I guess anything we do voluntarily is appreciated more.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.