My Love Affair with the American Work Ethic
When my parents were first starting out, they lived in a gas station in Colchester, Connecticut. Not realizing how ungodly unhealthy it might be to do so – this was back somewhere around 1950 or 1955 – my father fashioned a lovely little home for himself and my mom. This gas station sat alongside the property that was my grandparents farm and my father, a carpenter by trade, had gutted the building and reinvented it, complete with white picket fence and window boxes. They lived there for some years.
After awhile, it was decided that it was time to build a real house of their own. They purchased land in East Hampton, Connecticut. Every night after work, both of them would return to that little gas station, eat, get dressed, and make the twenty-five minute commute to the site of their future home.
It was a home built with love and most of the work was done by my dad and mom. It was and still is, I assume, a beautiful house. Set on seven acres of land, it was a sprawling brick ranch with two bathrooms, a full basement and attic, large living room with a stone fire place, a den, dining room, breezeway, two car garage. The interior and exterior details were second to none … well, you can imagine. “God is in the details,” my mother would tell me.
While the bulk of the work was conducted by my parents, my uncle did the brick work and other relatives and friends helped with landscaping, electric, and plumbing. My mom, who worked as a secretary, was a woman of outstanding taste and while she could swing a hammer with the best of them, she was also in charge of the interior design. Every weekend as well, the two of them worked on the house. It took three years before they could finally move in.
I think back on how motivated they must have been – to work all day (my father’s job was labor intensive so he spent already five days a week working hard), and then continue working into the night and every weekend. But that’s what people did – they worked for their dreams.
I tend to be a bit of a hard-ass when it comes to work ethics – this same work ethic that was given to me by my parents. When I hear people say, “I worked hard today, I should be able to just come home and relax”, I can’t help but roll my eyes. When I hear, “I worked hard all week, I should be able to just relax on the weekend”, I can’t help but wonder about the accomplishments in their personal life. What are their dreams? How are they making those dreams come true – by sitting on the couch?
This idea is further expanded as I reflect that the little gas station also needed upkeep and housecleaning. The lawn there still needed to be mowed. The house still needed to be cleaned, dishes washed, groceries bought. I love the idea of working for what you want. I believe in the notion that dreams are won with hard work and dogged single-minded dedication. I believe in having a mission. If my parents had not worked for their dream, had they chosen to relax … Well, I might have been born and raised in a gas station.
Thank you Henry and Edie for your dreams. For providing and instilling in me the American dream and that soul satisfying work ethic. This essay is dedicated to you.
Work hard. Realize your dreams.
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Writer/photographer Lisa Mikulski. Available for print or online publications and business in the Nordic region, Europe, and the U.S. Editorial, features, marketing copy, and public relations. Contact me here or at lisa @ 2sweden4love.com