I heard of a youth leader who challenged a group of students with this reality: you are either a consumer or a contributor.
In our house, we all are both. We consume together and we contribute together. We consume time to watch movies, swim and gather around the table for delightful meals. We consume money for clothes we need to wear and vacations we get to enjoy. But we also contribute. All of us.
There is not a particular formula in teaching our kids about work ethic. We model it for our children and instill it as opportunities present themselves. In The Meadows Home, opportunities are in vast supply. Around here there is always a dishwasher that needs unloading, clothes that need folding, food that needs cooking, animals that need feeding, beds that need making, rooms that need picking up, bathrooms that need cleaning, floors that need sweeping, rugs that need vacuuming, weeds that need pulling or yes, even weed-eating (or as my northern friends like to say, weed-whacking), and grass that needs mowing.
It may seem like an exhaustive list, and I’m not even including projects, and the list truly would be on a day-to-day basis for one person, but when you throw in six contributors, because “that’s not my job” is an empty comment in these parts, those to-dos get marked off rather quickly resulting in:
#1 a sense of pride and teamwork for all involved
#2 more quality time to spend together
And if this were the picture perfect home with the picture perfect family these things would go together time and time again without a hitch. But it’s not and they don’t.
For example, last week we were buzzing around on our very last day of summer vacation getting the chores done, the school supplies organized and the new schedules lined out. Two of our children were knocking out the yard—one on the mower, one on the weed-eater. (I’ll tip my hat to confidentiality and not make note as to who was who).
As Mowing Child is trucking along, it comes to our attention that there is an obvious problem. Mowing Child has made three laps around the house, trucking along as if there wasn’t a problem or concern. There was obviously a problem. The three lines left in the path was evident something was not normal. Mowing Child explained the reasoning for continuing to mow was that this repetitious line wasn’t even noticed. For real? Well, yes. That’s what Mowing Child was planning to stick to. Until I proposed, “You are a very smart kid. You are a very observant child. You also have the tendency to want to get things done. Is it at all possible that you noticed this but ignored it because you just wanted to get it done and mark it off the list?”
I was on to something and Mowing Child owned up to it. I get it. We’ve all just wanted to get things done—cleaning the house, paying the bills, and yes, mowing the lawn. I’ll even throw out this one: carrying in the groceries. Have you ever just wanted to get it done so badly that you overloaded and either by a weak bag or the forces of gravity, ended up dropping something, breakable, and then not only had to throw away what you just purchased, but also had to clean up liquid and glass paying particular attention to the floors so your shoes won’t stick every time you walk through the area reminding yourself how much longer it takes when you rush and cut corners? It’s an unpleasant reality, but we’ve all been there.
Here’s what we covered with Mowing Child:
Take a life lesson from the yard—when there is an obvious problem, just because you ignore it, doesn’t mean it will self-correct or go away. It must be dealt with. In this case, the totally flat tire needed air. We must take care of problems. Even if it means it’s gonna take more time, more energy, or more emotion. Ignoring just makes things worse.
While it’s good to be efficient with our time, rushing generally takes more time. Be thorough and pay attention to detail. A job well done says a lot about the person who did the job. Making the yard look nice when you mow will send a message about you when you’re finished. It will say you are a hard worker, you are diligent and you care about quality.
Brandon and I hope our kids have the influence, heart and foundation to grow into people who are others-focused and not self-focused, who have the heart of a servant and the mind-set of a contributor. In his article for Forbes magazine, 15 Traits of the Ideal Employee, Ken Sundheim stated, “the foundation of an effective organization lies in its ability to recruit results oriented, hard working employees who execute.”
Today it may just be laundry, grass and dirty dishes, but it’s the ingredients for a hard working, team oriented, contributor who will make life investments in the future family, in the future church and in the future work place.
Learning from the moments—flat tires and all!
Proverbs 28:19-20 The Message
Work your garden—you’ll end up with plenty of food;
play and party—you’ll end up with an empty plate.
Committed and persistent work pays off;
get-rich-quick schemes are ripoffs.
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