The other day I was perusing Facebook killing a few minutes (because there's really no added value to your life when you're on Facebook ...) when I saw a post by somebody who was so excited to be going on a cruise. This post followed other posts by and pictures of this person and this person's family spending gobs of time boating and off-roading. When I saw this post I was struck with a very sharp feeling of jealousy of this person. This took me by surprise and disturbed me greatly (hence this blog post), because I'm not a person who is prone to jealousy. My life is really quite good, and I generally want for nothing.
Even so, over the past few days, I've been thinking about this quite a bit, and trying to reconcile my jealousy, which hasn't gone away, with my own life. Why is it that this person, who isn't any better than me (see? I have a very well-developed sense of self-importance, so this jealousy is not derived from low self-esteem or self-worth ...), able to have all this free time and money to do these expensive and time-consuming things?
This is difficult for me to answer and I can only guess at the nature of this person's finances, so I have been forced to turn the question around: How is it that I do not have all this free time and money to do those kinds of expensive and time-consuming things? This question is much easier for me to answer. I work hard for the money I earn, and even if I had gobs of extra money, I don't think I'd choose to spend it that way; and, well, I work and when I do have free time, I choose to spend it visiting with family and going on other more pointed family vacations (see here for this summer's travels).
So, why is that I still feel so much jealousy when I wouldn't choose to spend my time and money doing what this person does, even if I had more time and more money? I'm not really sure, but it probably has something to do with how I'm wired. I have always want more out of life. I never feel like I have enough time to do all the things I want to do, and, much to my dismay, I often find I simply don't have the strength or brain-power to well-utilize the time I do have. It's a terrible conundrum.
This whole experience reminds me of a cartoon I once saw, which I was able to find:
Is it really true? Do we always want more because we feel entitled to it, even when we clearly aren't? I am not entitled to taking long vacations with a boat and ATVs any more than the next person, and yet when I see somebody else do this, it makes me want it.
So I'm in a tricky spot. How can I suppress this jealousy? Just internalize it and let it eat away at me? Or ... and perhaps this is WAY better ... I should try to convince this person to take me on their next vacation ... and pay for it, too.
Last night was the 5th Wednesday in the month of August. Our ward has a tradition of allocating that evening for the young men and young women to provide service to people of the Bishop's choosing. All the youth from ages 12 to 18 typically attend and are sent out to spend roughly half an hour helping one or more families in the ward, often those who are sick or otherwise infirm.
Last night, I went with two other adult leaders, four boys, and two girls; the youth were all between the ages of 14 and 16. We went over to one man's house (who has recently been quite ill) in order to do some yard work for him. When we arrived, this man had already meticulously done more than half the work, and the lawn mower and an edge trimmer were already out and ready to go. Pretty much all that needed to be finished was the edging of the front lawn, the mowing of the front lawn, and a few branches trimmed off a tree in the front yard.
Frankly, I was NOT impressed with the youth. I understand that young people of every era aren't typically voluntary. But they all knew why we were there -- we were there to help in any way that we could. Instead, they goofed off most of the time, being silly with each other, until the adult leaders actively prodded them with an instruction to do something specific. Sometimes, even after a direct instruction, the youth would resist doing what they'd been asked, making an excuse of some kind or simply not responding.
Most infuriating was one boy who stood and stared at me as I instructed him to go get the leaf blower from the man who we were there to help and to do what he was doing. Another sad example was when one of the girls, when asked to use the edger and after I had shown her how to use it, told me she couldn't do it because she's a girl. Really?!
With six able bodies, we should've been done in about ten minutes. Instead, it took us the full half hour to prod these children to do the job.
Only one of the boys had actually used a lawn mower before. Only one! I know for a fact that every teenager that was there lives in a house with a yard, which implies that either their parents don't have them help with the outdoor work, or their parents hire gardeners. I can't fault the parents for using their probably hard-earned resources to pay for a gardener, but sometimes I wonder if we (and I include myself here) often do what is easy, rather than what is right. It is certainly easier to hire a gardener. It is certainly easier to do the work ourselves so that it gets done promptly and the way we want it done. Nevertheless, I feel that parents do their children a great disservice when they fail to provide them with opportunities to do some of this menial labor around their own homes. Last night crisply illustrated the point for me.
Now don't get me wrong. Usually, I'm quite impressed by the moral character and the spiritual strength of these youth, but last night, I was downright disgusted by their laziness and ineptitude. It seems to me that these youth do not have an understanding of the value of manual work, nor did they carry with them the spirit of volunteerism that is held by people who provide service to others. I could make excuses for the youth, citing how busy they are with school and extracurricular activities and church responsibilities, but I'm not going to, because there was really no excuse for the behavior I saw last night.
Personally, my wife and I have had a long-standing policy that the kids help with the chores in and around the house. My 11-year-old son actually mows the lawn now, and does a fine job of it, too -- and he is a full 4 years junior to most of the youth that were there last night. Am I perfect in this regards? Not on your life, but at least I'm making sure he gets exposed to hard work in the sun and the heat, and learning the value of hard work.
So, parents out there, my challenge to you: let your gardener go and get your teenagers to mow the lawn. It won't result in perfect lines in your lawn and beautiful edges, but it may just result in a more perfect child.
I'm a space nerd, a family man, a middle of right-wing conservative, a church-goer, an enthusiastic guy, and a sufferer of occasional lower back pain. I'm fairly young with three wonderful children. Life is great, but far too short for all the things I want to do!