Most mornings, my commute is great. I am on the road early enough that there is very little traffic, so I am able to sip my coffee and think about my day. Usually, I sing with the radio as well – much to the dismay of the other commuters :-( While the songs on the radio are usually merely for entertainment, occasionally one will inspire me, or make me think.
Last week during my drive, Miranda Lambert’s Automatic came on the radio, and I was struck me how much truth was in the lyrics:
Hey what ever happened to waiting your turn
Doing it all by hand, cause when everything is handed to you
It’s only worth as much as the time put in
It all just seems so good the way we had it
Back before everything became automatic”
Read more: Miranda Lambert – Automatic Lyrics | MetroLyrics
Now, I’m not very old, so I cannot speak from experience of “doing it all by hand” like an old(er) person could, but I still believe that there is something to be said for the value of hard work – and the lack thereof that I see everyday. I was raised in a very frugal manner. It was out of necessity, as we had very little money, but my upbrining taught me the value of a frugal lifestyle and hard work. Really, it was my mother that instilled this in me, and she is the reason that I am who I am today.
Growing up, we had a garden that supplied all of our fresh produce during the summer and gallons upon gallons of frozen and canned vegetables during the winter. We very rarely bought produce from the store. We had chickens to lay eggs, and we butchered our own chickens to eat, as well. I really hated chickens, but by doing this we saved so much money!
We also bought farm-fresh milk from a farmer near us, drank the milk with meals, and used the skimmed off cream to make our own butter. We shopped at garage sales for nearly all of our clothes, and when something fancier came up that we needed to dress for, my mother would make our clothes to cut down the costs. My mother knows the value of a dollar, and even though I hated her cost-cutting ways when I was younger, I now see how much she accomplishes with so little money!
On top of that, my mother taught me the value of hard work. We never got an allowance, but we were still required to do chores, because we were members of the family. If we wanted to earn some extra money we could do a harder chore and earn a dollar or two, but it was never much.
When High School rolled around and I started thinking about college, buying a car, and, well, clothes :-) (Doesn’t every teenager?). My mom simply told me that while she wished me the best, they did not have the money to finance my college, car, or clothes, but that I was welcome to get a job.
So I did! At 14 I started waitressing and learned that the excellent work ethic my parents had instilled in me was paying off in spades. I worked hard for my boss, who gave me fantastic opportunities at the restaurant, and I worked hard for my customers, who then tipped well! When I went to college, my hard work led my previous employer to give an excellent recommendation to my new employer – and the cycle of success attributed to hard work continued.
I got my current job the day after I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, and then 10 months later received a 50% raise and promotion – even after being out on maternity leave!
While all of this may seem like bragging – okay, it kind of is :-) – my intention is to point out what you can achieve with a sense of frugality and a good work ethic, which brings me back to Miranda Lambert’s lyrics:
When everything is handed to you, it’s only worth the time that you put in.
Without going into a whole political spiel, I am just going to state that our society is full of “handouts.” Some of them are utilized by people who need the help, and some of them are not. Regardless of the circumstances, you get out of something what you put into it. If you are given food stamps essentially for free, you are less likely to buy nutritious, “bang for your buck” foods at the grocery store. The same goes for mothers and children on WIC. Infants on WIC are much more likely to be formula-fed than breastfed, because it is less work for the mother to use WIC money and buy formula and not have to sacrifice her body to feed her child.
Have we as a country stopped placing value on hard work and making our own way in the world? There was time when it meant something to be a self-made man (or woman). Have we lost that?
Please note: I do not begrudge families who take help such as welfare, food stamps, or WIC because they genuinely need the help. One of the wonderful things about America are “fallback” systems such as these that help families through hard times. Also, I am sure that there are people who make good use of the help that they receive :-)
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