The Shovel

My kids are thrilled by the amount of snow we’ve had for reasons different than one might think. Several weeks before our first significant snowfall, I caught a whiff of something in my house.

A hint of entitlement. And along with that came the arguing, the competing, the discord among my three.

“I feel a project coming on,”  I mused. The perfect project loomed, but now instead of Steve and I doing it, I decided our kids should spearhead it.

The pasture that houses our horses has been overgrazed into a sad state. It needs a big dose of “soil medicine” (i.e. composted manure) and a good re-seeding. We determined that the kids would shovel a cart-full of manure from the compost pile and then follow along behind their lawn tractor and cart, spreading it by hand with  shovels. Repeat, until the manure pile exists no more.

We spread 12 loads together as a family the first day, and decided 5 loads per day for the kids on their own would be a reasonable daily task.

I’m thinking that our perspective on training my kids will be unfavorably viewed by many. But, I’m no stranger to the shovel. And I just finished reading a popular memoir (New York Times Bestseller), and I come away from it angry.

I’d already been mulling these things, but the opposite perspective the-book-I-read fired me up . Here are the things I want my kids to understand, to know , not in their heads, but like they know their own blood rushing through their veins:

No body owes you anything.

No job is beneath you, nor is it too dirty for you.

People who don’t feel that well, or have bad backs have been getting work done since the beginning of time. You are not an exception.

Don’t be a princess. Female, and going to work with the men? Don’t expect special treatment. Don’t expect to be the one on the tractor or equipment all the time. Learn to run the shovel, and not your mouth, with the best of them. They will accept you.

If you are small, or young, don’t let that stop you and don’t let it demean you. Hustle harder.

Be the person everyone is glad they’ll be working with. Don’t be the person that people secretly sigh about having to work with b/c you do shoddy work or don’t pull your share of the load. Or, as bad, you’re a complainer.

Lift your co-workers  up.

When the boss says he/she needs x, y, and z done, whether or not you are personally fulfilled by the type of job x,y, and z is, be the person that determines “Yes, I will do that for you. Let me at it.” Serve. Your job is a gift, not an entitlement.

Once, I was a single mom and I knew that shoveling manure out my double-decker tractor trailer (bullwagon) would take me about 2 hours with my baby strapped on my back. In addition to the 100’s of miles I’d drive that day for the next load of cattle.

This was not a burden. Or a hardship. It was a privilege. The child on my back was a gift. The ability to care for him—a gift. The job, the means, to do so—a  gift. The faith my boss placed in me by allowing me to have the job WHILE bringing my child along—an abundant, gracious gift.

I didn’t say it wasn’t difficult. But, the gifts…

I also know what it feels like to get a paycheck for sailing in sequins and lipstick around an arena doing stunts on my horse for a screaming audience.

 But I, we, stand on “the shovel.” There are no sequins and applause without it. And, as life is, most times there aren’t sequins and applause, just the shovel.

So. Before this blanket of snow fell to stay, my kids grumbled a bit each day as they headed out to spread manure. It takes the team of three about the same amount of time to spread five loads as it took me to shovel out a tractor trailer.

I warned them before they departed, “I suggest you guys come up from the pasture as buddies. If you’re arguing or putting someone down, you’ll do five more loads.”

I’ve checked their work. Contentment flows, as I see them figure it out. First, the littlest fellow slowly drove the tractor while the other two shoveled and spread. But now, they’ve figured out how to tip the trailer with a rigged gate to allow a slow flow of manure and they can spread faster and with less muscle-power. They are buddies with a common goal: Get it done. Together, they compare their blisters, callouses, and muscles. Badges of dignity.

For now, spreading is paused. The manure pile will still be there when the snow melts, and the kids will be back at it then.

The pasture grass seed has been bought. And later this summer when that patch of land is restored to green vitality and when the kids go by it and observe the serenity of grazing animals, they’ll know in their souls “We did that.”

So I could tell them all my words, but their eyes would glaze over. Or, I can let them accomplish this job, and that is the best gift I can give them.

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