There appears to be an increasing trend today to let young people get away with doing less and less work. Young folks are refusing to go to work during the summer because they feel "burned out" after the school year and need a rest. The sad thing is, their parents agree. What does this say about us as Americans when people reject work in favor of more leisure time? Can we afford to work less? Can we afford to be lazy?
Those of us who have worked long and hard all our lives find this behavior startling. We are raising a generation of spoiled brats. We have all seen kids hanging around the malls with nothing better to do. Young people need to learn to work. Their parents must not let them be idle, for as they say, idle hands are the devil's workshop.
When I was growing up it was early to bed, early to rise. My family worked hard, every one of us, starting even before the sun rose. Sure, many times I wanted to rest, but my parents wouldn't let me until the work was done. They needed a rest more than anybody. They were working and raising us and it was hard, but they did it. They taught by example and instilled in us a strong work ethic. Today, many parents fail to provide that example.
Now I'm not saying that young children should be put to work. We do not want a return to a time before child labor laws went into effect. Little children need and deserve their playtime. We should not take away their childhood. But once they reach a certain age, they must realize that it is time to accept a certain degree of maturity and responsibility, part of which involves going to work. Whether it is flipping burgers at McDonald's, washing cars, cutting lawns or walking dogs, as long as they are working, they stay out of trouble, learn better how to interact with adults and make a little money.
The trouble is that many young people today want something for nothing. They don't want to have to work for anything. They expect to be handed everything, and many parents give in to their demands. What those parents should do instead is to put their foot down and force their sons and daughters to see the value of hard work. Being handed everything diminishes the value of everything. The rewards are much greater when you have to work for them. When you work for something, you feel a real sense of worth; both in yourself and in the object or goal you are trying to obtain.
I am not arguing that labor has some intrinsic value and that to work is our very reason for being - Nazi Germany propagated that theory, as did Communist Russia. What I am saying is that work teaches us all something positive. It helps us understand the way the world works. It teaches us to act in a more mature and responsible manner. It shows us that we are not deserving of every little thing and that if we want something, really want something, that we need to work to achieve it. Nobody ever said that it would be easy, but if you think your goal is worthwhile, you will labor for it.
Not to mention the importance of learning a skill that may one day serve you well. A young man or woman who goes to work during their summer vacation may find a job they actually enjoy and might want to pursue as a career. When asked what they want to do when they grow up, instead of responding with an annoyed "I don't know," they can give a real, thoughtful answer because they will have had a taste of the "real world" and know what is available to them career-wise. But if their parents continue to allow them to lie around the house all day, watching TV, when they could be doing something productive, well then, we will all suffer for that lack discipline.
For most of us, every day is Labor Day, when we remember the hard work and toil of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents to bring us to where we are today. Life was much harder for them, yet they rolled up their sleeves and went to it. They did it for us, for the future generations, so that each would be better off than the one before it. We have not reached a stage in our development when we can do away with work or sharply reduce the amount of work we do. We will never achieve such a utopia. That's a cold, hard fact for some. To the rest of us, it is reality, pure and simple. Work is not a necessary evil. It is done to better mankind and the self. That is what we need to instill in our young people.