Sunday, October 16, 2011
Once Upon a Time....
Once upon a time my Dad and Mom yearned for a better life for themselves and their children. They dreamt of land and trees and creeks, of a place where they could step outside their door and shoot their winter's meat. They dreamt of country roads, alpine peaks and fields white with snow. They dreamt of a simple country life while steeped in traffic, bills and endless ferry boat commuting.
When I was little, my family lived on Vashon Island, in Puget Sound. My Dad had been born and raised there (learning to hunt on the then sparsely populated island) and my Mom's family had moved there when she was a teenager so that they could have a pasture for her horse. Years went by and the Island became a sought after bedroom community for the ever-expanding metropolis that is Seattle. As shopping centers replaced strawberry fields and mansions dominated the once accessible shoreline, my parents began dreaming of mountain streams and wild woods.
Their dream, although lovely, was really impossible. My folks were deeply entrenched in the American Dream - two kids, a house, two well-paying jobs and a hefty load of debt. They couldn't possibly chase after a simple country life when there were bills to be paid and a lifestyle to be maintained - or could they?
After seven years of searching for their slice of heaven they came across a little tract of land in the American Redoubt. It was 25 acres of mixed timber and meadow, with two year around creeks that intersected, forming the southern boundary. An artesian spring bubbled out of a hillside and state and forest service land hemmed the property in from the rear. This was the moment of truth. Would my parents stay in their less than full-filling but "safe" life, or would they step out in faith and change their life and the lives of their children?
For my Mom and Dad, there wasn't really a choice. They knew that God was calling them to the country and so they answered. Throwing off conventional wisdom, my Dad left his well-paying teaching job (he had previously been an iron worker, building many of the skyscrapers in downtown Seattle) and my Mom vacated her job as a nursing home administrator. They sold their house, paid off all of their debts, paid cash for their new land, packed all of their worldly possessions into a four horse trailer and boldly set off for their new life. They had no house to move into. They knew no people. The had no job to provide for their family or even the prospect of employment.
My folks spent the summer trying to get our new situation livable for the winter. They hand dug the artesian spring, lined it with cedar and put in a pump. They dug lines for the water pipes, had a septic tank installed and eventually found an older single-wide mobile to serve as our home. We stacked straw bales around the bottom of the trailer to act as insulation (never thinking that they would attract hordes of rodents) and cut wood by the cord-full. We fenced 25 acres to provide a pasture for our horses and graveled the existing driveway.
Summer gave way to fall. The temperature began to drop and so did my parents savings account. Knowing that he couldn't provide for his family sitting at home, my Dad started looking for a job. He knew, with his vast experience and skill set, that he would have no problem securing full time employment. After all, he could do anything. He could weld, mechanic, drive anything with wheels. He had been an iron worker, a teacher - he was a jack of all trades. Day after day, Dad job searched in vain. He hadn't taken into consideration that when moving way out into the country, in a particularly depressed part of Idaho, jobs were few and far between. Finally, after almost a month of searching, he landed a job. It wasn't much - in fact, it was terrible. My Dad went to work for a local saw mill sweeping wood chips during night shift. Really. Night after night, my Dad would grab a push broom and start walking. It was dirty, nasty, spiteful work and he hated every minute of it. But, it was a job. He went to work everyday. He was always on time. He didn't complain. He didn't bellyache. He didn't miss a day. He pushed that broom and he provided for his family. Never once did he say "I'm worth more than this - this is below me".
One day, another job came along. It wasn't much. The work was harder and the hours longer, but the pay was better. He became know in the community as a hard worker, someone you could count on. Soon, other job opportunities presented themselves. Little by little, my Dad became a trusted part of our community. He was well thought of and known to be a man of integrity. The longer we lived in our chosen part of the country, the more my dad became known for his humility and hard work, and more doors opened for him. Not only did my Dad hold a fine job, he also started his own business, which ran successfully until he sold it.
My parents chased their version of the American Dream. The road was rocky, the work was hard and the days were long - but they succeeded. Through hard work and sacrifice, they secured a future for themselves, their children and their grandchildren. They suffered, they went without and they did jobs that nobody wants to do - but they also learned, they loved and they grew in faith. Through their tribulations, they taught my brother and I that anything worth having is worth working (and waiting) for. They taught us that hard work pays off and that we are responsible for making our own way in life. They taught us to walk through difficulties and not try to get around them and that happiness comes from taking responsibility. They taught us that self-worth comes from who you are not what you do.
And now, we are being told that there is no longer an American Dream. Protesters are littering our streets demanding a bigger piece of the pie, but they want it given to them. They want the dream but they don't want to have to suffer for it. They will tell you that they would rather collect unemployment than work at a job that is "below" them. They will say that they are "worth" more than that. Says who? They are "worth" what someone is willing to pay them. Besides, their worth doesn't come from their paycheck - their worth comes from Christ alone.
I am not foolish enough to believe that there is not greed in this world. I know there is evil. Our country is being led by people hell-bent on padding their own pockets at the expense of you and I. But, in the end, I am still responsible for me and you are still responsible for you. And that is as it should be. Only when we are responsible for ourselves will true progress be made. You and I still live in a great country and we can still follow our dreams. But only if we are willing to suffer and to do the hard things.
We have become used to a standard of living that is untenable. Our appetite for more and more and more has become unchecked and we have now sold our souls to the devil. We are at a point in time when we are willing to steal from our neighbors rather than support ourselves. We would rather steal than work. What have we become?
To all of my readers who do the hard things, who suffer yet hold their heads high - thank you. You are my heroes. You are the real Americans this country so desperately needs. Lets spend our time making our families, and in turn our nation, a better place, rather than bellyaching about our "lot" in life. Lets direct our own lives instead of reducing ourselves to nothing more than victims. Lets change "Once Upon a Time...." to "This is how Americans do Things".