Thursday marks the official start of the holiday season. We will all sit around table, hopefully with family members, and share in a meal that includes far more food than we can eat at one sitting.
A few of us might spend some time in thoughtful repose, considering what we are giving thanks for. I suspect we are all thankful for a great many things. And I suspect each of us is probably thankful for at least one thing that’s unique to us.
I’ve been considering the question and I think I’ve settled on that one thing that I’m most thankful for.
We all inherit the blessings and curses of our parents. I can be as stubborn as my father. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but more often than not, it is not. I also inherited his work ethic. That, too, could be a good thing or a bad thing. In this case, though, I think it’s a decidedly good thing.
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My father was raised on a farm. He learned early from his farming father that work was an expectation. My father got up before school and milked cows. Then he went back inside the house, ate breakfast and cleaned up for school. Then he rode his bike the mile into town to school. When he came home from school, he did some homework and went back out to milk the cows late in the day.
If you have any knowledge of the dairy industry, you know cows have to be milked regularly. And farmers arrange things to ensure there are always cows that need milking, ensuring a steady supply of the product they could sell at market.
Like my father, I worked on the family farm, though we raised hogs, lived in town and drove to the farm each day. As a teenager, I dreaded working at the farm after school and spending all day on Saturdays and most of the day on Sundays at the farm.
After I moved away to college, I began to feel guilty for leaving my father and brother, Lee, to do all the work. It didn’t take long before I started voluntarily returning to the farm on the weekends to help out. That work ethic my father learned from his father, had been transferred to me.
Like my father when he was a boy, I didn’t get paid a wage for my work. I was sometimes jealous of the boys who worked on local tobacco farms in the summer and made bank. But, like my father before me, I never had to do without. If I wanted to go somewhere, Daddy pulled a $20 from his billfold and off I went. When I needed gas for the car, we paid for it with a farm check.
I don’t work on the farm now, of course, but on that farm as a teenager and a young adult, I learned the value of work and the expectation that working was the price we paid for being part of our family.
Those lessons have served me well in my lifelong profession. Though we work in an office, often seated at a computer, there’s nothing really regular about a day at the newspaper. It’s not a 9 to 5 job. We get to meet new people, we get out of the office to cover news and events that happen – whenever they happen – and we get to experience the fullness of life in our community.
This job isn’t for the person who relishes consistency and stability. The long hours remind me of working on the farm. The weekend parades and festivals remind me of working on the farm. And, every day, when I get up to go to work, I’m reminded that I like what I do as much now, as I ultimately did when I was working on the farm.
So, yes, I’m thankful this Thanksgiving. I’m thankful my father taught me the value of toiling until the work was done. There is a sweetness about finishing work and seeing a task through to the end. That’s a powerful lesson for a man to pass on to his boy.