“I’m grateful because that taught me how to work.”
This thought came up in conversation the other day while talking about the difference in the childhoods of yesteryear and the challenges the young face today. We were talking about the jobs we had when we were young, 10, 12, 15 years old. These were the jobs where you did the dirty work of cleaning and pushing a broom, digging dirt, mowing lawns, and babysitting. These were the jobs that were at the bottom rung of the ladder. You weren’t there to move up the ladder either. You weren’t there to get a bonus, benefits, or to support a family.
You were there to learn how to work.
With the economy changes and the crash that found people with Masters’ degrees working at McDonalds, these on the job training jobs were passed onto people with much more experience. If you could get someone with more experience to do the same thing for the same money, why wouldn’t you?
At the same time, schools moved into focusing on testing and college preparedness. The jobs of washing dishes and cleaning cars became seen as less than desirable for our children. We wanted them to have careers that required education, smarts, and know how. We turned to the school systems, after school curriculum, and sports activities to give this to our kids. But what happened was our kids got too busy for those part-time low end of the rung jobs. We put value on their extra curricular and that left little time for work.
So now we have a whole generation of kids who know how to play sports, can speak Lation, code computers, and understand advanced biology so they can get the jobs that require a degree. But what they haven’t learned and what we have forgotten to teach them, is how to work, just for the sake and satisfaction of working.
Life is difficult; the working world is no different. The job market has become harder than ever as corporations take over small companies. They can pick and choose their best hires, and wait if they can’t find them. You don’t’ just get a job for having a degree anymore. Kids today are going to have the face the fact that they might not get their dream job right out of college. They may have to work at a job they hate. They may have to work at a job that is less than, or beneath, what they are capable of or educated above. They may have to do the dirty job in order to prove them can do the big jobs.
This is a skill we are not providing our kids. The skill of work for work’s sake.
This is not to say an education is not work, or that an education is not important, but there is a mindfulness skill in being able to do something you really don’t want to do for a set amount of time just for the sake of doing it.
The motivation to work comes with rewards in money, of course. But there are other rewards. The feeling of satisfaction in a surface you cleaned that was once dirty. The feeling of helping someone who really needs a helping hand is rewarding. The knowledge that you can handle a tough job and that you are strong enough to handle a tough situation is not only rewarding, it is huge boost for self-esteem and feeling capable in the world. The joy in a job well done is a tangible thing. It is a mindfulness tool to be able to not be co-erced or bribed or forced into doing something, but instead find the motivation to want to do it. That comes with practicing work. And practice only comes if we give our kids the opportunity.
Recently an actor was Social shamed for working, just because the work was at a Trader Joes and not on TV. If our society is a point where we feel that people playing imaginary characters on a screen is more real, more important, and more valued than the person in care of our food, money, and nourishment (ie: groceries), then perhaps it is time that we do take a look at what we are teaching our kids. What do we ourselves believe about the honor, the respect, and the ability to just work?
Take the time today to honor work in all its forms, no matter where or how it happens to be. (And the work that you do as a parent is valued too!!!)
(aka JP Starre)
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Part of mindful living is being aware when things are good or bad that no matter what this is just a moment in time that will pass. Sometimes it does not feel that way.
Sometimes the rain lasts for weeks or months. Sometimes the heat is relentless. Sometimes the losses are too many, too often, too close. Sometimes it feels as though we can’t see our way out, we can’t handle anymore, we can’t be anymore. We can’t move into the positive hope to see the solutions.
That is when we need to take the advice of one very wise fish and “Just Keep Swimming.”
There was a news story recently of a woman who fell off a cruise ship and was in the ocean water for 10 hours before being found. There was another summer story of a boy who got caught in a rip current and was out in the Atlantic for hours until seeing land and being able to head to shore. What did they have in common in their survival stories? They just kept swimming.
It was dark. It was cold. The giant fishes of the sea were for sure circling. They had no knowledge of what lay ahead. They had no certainty that they would be rescued. They had no one to help them, no place to swim to, nothing to hold onto. They just kept swimming. They kept treading water and keeping their head above the waves to breathe in the air. They stayed afloat until that one opportunity showed up where they could be seen, found, helped by others, dry on land.
For sure they had moments of doubt. For sure they had moments of despair. They felt lost. They felt hopeless. They felt scared. But they didn’t let it stop them from swimming. They didn’t let it stop them from keeping afloat long enough for the help to come. They were not physically stronger than anyone else. They were not better swimmers than anyone else. They were mentally tough. They had the skills of perseverance, of hope, of possibility, of tenacity in times of life or death. They somehow knew to just keep swimming.
In this day in age the words Grit and Reliance have become a part of what we wish to teach our children. A whole generation of humans were helped so much they never developed the skills to survive the fears, the losses, the crisis’s, the aloneness that life can bring. They fall apart in the face of living alone on their own. Their stress is at an all time high. They don’t know how to survive without those skills.
One way we can teach our children the invisible skills to survive those challenges in life, whether it is a new school, new friends, bullying, school safety fears, family changes, losses or just growing up daily emotional challenges, is to model the resiliency of those who survive.
If you aren’t sure if you are, listen to the words you use. When people come to us with problems, do we give them answers we think our best or feed them fear on how hard it is? Or do we say “You are smart. You can figure this out. You go this!”
Do we tell them how scary the world is and how hard it is to be a person in today’s world or do we show them step by step how to create the world we want to live in with an action plan and researched information so they can decide with confidence and an educated point of view? Do we tell them all the reasons why it won’t work or do we give them options on the many ways it can?
Do we use words like “I don’t know.” or do we say “Let’s find out!”
Do we say “You will drown.” or do we say “Just Keep Swimming.”
Life is difficult. There is no easy way out. Knowing that we can do this together, that there are solutions, that help and answers do come if you just keep moving forward, even if you can’t see a foot in front of your face. Even when you don’t have answers, even when you don’t know what is to come, how do we as adults keep moving?
Sometimes just treading water and keeping our face above the waves is enough. For this too shall pass. Life is just a series of changes. And with kids those changes come fast and furious! Holding on is all we can do sometimes.
As school starts and the changes come again, may we all cheer each other on as we find our way in the waves and stay afloat in this crazy journey of life!
(aka JP Starre)
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