Congress established Labor Day in 1894 to celebrate the contributions workers make to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. The success of any nation, family or individual is contingent upon our commitment to work.
But somewhere along the line we have been fed the idea that a life full of free time, leisure and relaxation is the most satisfying. The truth, however, is that our greatest sense of self-worth, of accomplishment and satisfaction comes not from the work we avoid, but the work we achieve.
Benjamin Franklin reminded us, “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.”
Unfortunately, our government has concocted a welfare system that rewards idleness and creates dependency. In our well-meaning efforts to care for the poor, we have perpetuated poverty.
Even as we have urged our federal government to rein in welfare entitlements and promote self-reliance, the number of welfare recipients continues to increase.
The government appears anxious to provide for us — even beyond what we need. Perhaps the best solution lies not with government, but with us. Perhaps a shift in attitude would be more effective than a shift in government resources.
Welfare principles are best taught in our homes. Children often enjoy unprecedented prosperity created by parents who, wanting to provide a better life, shelter them from the hardships they experienced. Such indulgences hinder a child’s chances for success and happiness. One of the greatest favors parents can do for their children is to teach them the value of work. The benefits of work can be taught in many ways. Here are a few to consider:
• Work with your children, teaching them how to weed the garden, cook meals, wash and iron clothes, and keep their rooms clean.
• Don’t overload them with so many sports and recreational activities that they neglect homework and family duties.
• Stress the advantages of education, achieving good grades and preparing for a career.
• Instead of an allowance, provide opportunities to earn money.
• Teach that some chores and duties come with being a member of the family.
• Complain less about your employer and express appreciation for your job.
• Teach your children the perils of debt and the security of savings and that paying bills promptly and fully is a matter of integrity.
• Help them see that service to others is its own reward and the feeling of helping the widow next door will always beat the pursuit of personal pleasures.
This Labor Day, let’s celebrate the importance of work. As we remind ourselves and teach our children the advantages of work, we will see less dependence on government and more reliance on self.
No true American, while physically and emotionally able can voluntarily shift the responsibility of his family’s well-being to someone else.
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3:19) is not outdated counsel. It is a commandment with multiple blessings attached — a directive that leads to happiness.
Sen. Brent Hill, of Rexburg, is president pro tempore of the Idaho state Senate.