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Hard Work

December 10, 2013 | 3 Comments

To the host:

As a young person, it is hard to find role models and peers who enjoy working hard... doing good work. In trying to be an aware, fit, and wholesome individual, it seems I only identify with old people. What do you suggest?

Jenna Lyons


You're so right, that the pleasure of work is crucial to a healthy life, but surely you know classmates who love their schoolwork, whether its math or history or writing or music, and that's where it all begins. In any school, there are the comedians and the hipsters, the joiners, the fluffheads, who make a point of sloughing off work, who take their identity from not doing well, and then there are us nerds who dig down into the material and want to do well, not to win approval but because the work makes them feel whole. Marge Piercy wrote a poem, "To Be Of Use," in which she said:

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

You can learn a lot from old people but the hard work needs to be done by your generation, Jenna, and I wish you well. Find some strivers your age and talk about the work you want to do in your life and look for people engaged in that work and see if they'll take you on. Be wary of fields in which there is rigid hierarchy, look for fields in which people of many different competencies are accepted as equals, in which everyone pulls together. And good luck.


On Work

From a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality*

When we strive for character
We consider Duty,Honor, manners, Work, and the golden deed -
We pride ourselves when we fill a need.

When personality is our epitome
We worship the stunning, the attractive, the glowing
And shun the work and the knowing.

The best of both worlds would be
A culture of personality with character for the 21st century.

*Cultural historian Warren Susman described the shift from the 19th to the 20th century as a shift from a culture of character to a culture of personality, pages 21-24, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking", by Susan Cain.

I'm surprised to read this. My daughter is 24 and she and many of her peers are working hard, trying to good work. Several joined Teach for America. A cousin was the Peace Corps. Another spent 2 years teaching in China. In high school my daughter did charitable things with a group of friends thru the Key Club. Now she's busting her butt in med school and is determined to be a primary care doctor in an underserved area, wherever that might be. Many of her classmates have alread spent time in poverty areas in the US and the third world volunteering. So look around- maybe young people who are working hard doing good work don't live in Missoula but there are certainly many living elsewhere in the US.

On Prairie Home Companion, I especially enjoy hearing the music you and I grew up with. It was great fun listening to Paul Schaeffer. I hope you will have him back again soon.

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