“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” (Kahlil Gibran ~ poet)
Labors of love require time and energy. The pleasure of such love is two-fold as the task-oriented individual truly enjoys mental or physical exertion to benefit or enhance the life of a separate being. The giver seeks no material exchange of appreciation, but rather cherishes the smile or relief that presents itself on the face of the receiver. Happiness is the prize. Memories are the keepsake.
We gain connectedness to a person or to the type of individual we are when we delve into a labor of love. The best representation of my thoughts likely come from family values reflected in children when those children turn adult and return to their roots to perform the tasks I speak of. Children seek out ways to make life more pleasurable for the people who selflessly nurtured them.
Many Rush County families had a similar upbringing to mine with a set of great parents who lived the good life. Respect, compassion, gratitude, and unconditional love were but a few of personalized characteristics passed down from the older generation. We were shown, by example, that giving of yourself was a great representation to the type of person you are and to your upbringing.
It’s easy to be caught up in a busy life to the point that we find no time to reflect on who we are or where we came from. Thoughts of our childhood upbringing and our current life pass like two ships in the night -- a rush of waves and a slight glance in the other direction but then we keep moving on. Deep reflection comes when the ships anchor side-by-side if even for a short while.
Today, I can recall many instances over the years when my siblings pulled together and performed those loving labors for our parents. An annual Father’s Day ritual was to engage in farm-related repairs of fixing, painting, or clearing. Likewise, for Mother’s Day it was to plant flowers or otherwise beautify the yard and, of course, try to prevent my mom from cooking (but she always did anyway). One particular year when I was still small, I remember my dad and my brothers presenting my mom with a porch-sized flower box that had been crudely built in our barn. Painted light blue (left over barn paint), that gift was a rustic, but true, labor of love.
The flower box built by loving hands deteriorated years ago. However, happy memories associated with it remain today, as does the type of selfless giving so often seen in a family. Recently, my sister and a couple of my brothers worked intensely through personal time constraints (and record high heat) to present my mom with a work of love, a beautiful new patio. The patio is for the visual pleasure of my mom and for her to enjoy in any way that she desires. The labor associated with its construction was the pleasure of my siblings who gave of themselves expecting no material rewards in return. Happiness for my mom was the greatest reward of all.
The time we give up may seem so hard to give up because time is so hard to come by. Moments easily escape our grasp because life is so involving, often overwhelming. However, when we find those minutes or hours to give, we usually find more happiness waiting there than we ever expected. We create memories in return.
Material goods can and do provide a distinct and necessary service. Giving of monetary wealth helps organizations function and families cope with financial struggles. However, the act of such giving usually involves little exertion on the part of the giver. We write a check or purchase a gift and move on with life without giving up much time or energy. Love of humanity may be present but the intricate personal attachment and interaction falls short.
Giving of personal time and talent demonstrates a labor of love that can pass down through generations. This is true of family as much as it is true of a community. Wealth found in this labor is grander than any material goods we cherish.
I feel very fortunate to have been brought up by parents who graciously showed their children the right way to live. Even if we sometimes falter, those parental impressions remain a part of who we are and of who we can strive to be.