Monday, September 27, 2010

Forgotten Virtues

Last night our family had a really special time as we interviewed the "patriarchs" of our family. Well, maybe they're not patriarchs, but they are the oldest living members of the Pyatskowit family, and thus are viewed as a somewhat "special" foursome.

The parlor – because that's really what it seemed like that night – held a reverent quietness as each of the four siblings told all that they could remember about their "troubled childhood." At some points there was a burst of laughter from all who were listening, other times; unshed tears glistened in some of our eyes.

The three boys and baby girl had been put into foster homes at a very young age. Only the two oldest boys remembered the day that their Mother had died in the car accident. The others were still too young.

They told about the families that took them in over the years, and about being switched from place to place. They really didn't know anything about where, how, or why, they just did as they were told. It was just "life" for them, they learned to adjust to new things quickly, and not look at the small "calamities" that life often hands them as a "big deal", or something to be lamented over for months and years.

We learned about how they were disciplined, what their parents and grandparents, and "Uncle Mose" had been like. What their pastimes were, what all the different "foster parents" had been like, who each of the four siblings were named after….

The night rolled on, but I didn't care. It was amazing, hearing some of the things they went through and seeing the huge difference between what family life, parenthood and work had been like only sixty years ago compared to what it is like today.

The baby girl, of course, got older, and was soon cooking "hot cereal" for breakfast on the farm every morning. The boys worked almost every minute they were awake and not at school. One of them said that he heard about a boy who came home from school, ate supper and took a nap as soon as he got home. After this boy took a nap, he went out to play basketball. My Uncle said "I always wondered what that would be like – coming home from school, eating supper and taking a nap. When we came home from school, the cows always had to be milked. We didn't ever have time for luxuries like that! – And then, to go and play basketball after the nap! – of course, for me it would have been football, but that was just unthinkable."

The way everything was then, only sixty years ago is so different from the way it is now! Kids who seem to have everything complain because they don't have more, or something different. It's not at all uncommon for people to come home from work or school and take a nap. A lot of full-grown women barely cook for their families, it's considered extraordinary that a nine-year-old can make breakfast for her whole family nowadays!

We've come to have such a reliance on all the modern conveniences that spoil us and make us such a "privileged" people. For myself, I think that although life is a lot faster and easier with all the contraptions and fads that are here today, life was a lot better sixty years ago on a farm than it is now.

Children didn't grow up not knowing how to work: Some 12 year olds don't know how to properly clean a room now. Not because they're stupid, the parents haven't trained them to do it. There's been no need to, and no time.

There was more family time: Even though working, brothers had time to talk to each other while they were cleaning out the barn and milking the cows. Mom's and daughters could find time to discuss all the confusing situations that needed discussing while putting a good supper on the table. (An art that is being forgotten these days.) Family simply couldn't avoid one another.

Children weren't constantly being saturated with the undesirable traffic on the computer or TV: Rather, when they weren't working, they would often spend a few hours outside, sledding or swimming, building a tree house, using their imaginations in a game of "cowboys and Indians."

People knew how to actually do things: When a young woman found herself having to bake a few batches of cookies, she wasn't overwhelmed with the stress "of it all." When a man spent all-day getting sunburned and dirty in a field, it wasn't a calamity – it was just life. When kids were sent out to do the chores, it wasn't considered "child abuse" it just had to be done.

These are some things I think modern conveniences are robbing us of. Everyone – including me – enjoys most of the modern conveniences that have been brought along through the years. But look what it's doing to us. If you go back more than just sixty years, you'll find that the further you go, the more work had to be done – and the lazy didn't have as much to eat in the winter as the hard worker did. More people worshipped God with everything they had, and God's people were – and are - always "better off" in the world than those who are not serving God. I don't mean that a Christian's life is easier than a non-believers, I mean that God takes care of his own, and his love and grace carries them through the hard times in life.

I'm sure there are some that will differ from my opinion of how I view today's world and all the gismos and gadgets it offers us. But as far as I can see, good hard work is a primary tool for building character, and it is wonderful for strengthening family relationships. I don't suggest giving up all the gismos and gadgets – who wants to hand-wash their laundry, or write letters instead of sending emails? However, I think it wise not to shirk from any kind of work in which you may "get your hands dirty." There are many dirty places where character and endurance is grown – like a garden, for instance, or a dirty basement that needs cleaned, or a soapy batch of dishwater.

What do the rest of you think? Should we forget about the past and leave its virtues and toils behind us, or should we use them as tools to shape our, and our children's characters?


Bailey said...

Wow. That's really good.

I'll admit that I would be one of those young ladies freaking out over making a million batches of cookies. Cookies are not my forte. :P

I totally agree that life seems so much simpler and yet so much richer back then. Good, hard work -- that's the key to responsibility.

But my family's past is a little different. Some of my grandparents didn't grow up on a farm, have many siblings or live the life yours did. They pursued other responsibilities, other hobbies...and I think that's okay. And even though our families have a similar make-up, I'm more comfortable grading Spanish instead of whipping up breakfast. I work more with my brains than my hands, in other words.

But I think working with one's hands, getting dirty, taking on more than you think possible...there's something unique about that. That's why I love scrubbing floors. ;o)

Maria said...

An amazing post Anna! This is so true! I think that it's sad how people are not the same with work and such. And that includes me! :(

Anonymous said...

Anna, the comment sent from anonymous was from me, MAMAW... I forgot to sign my name!!!