All Hands on Deck!!

Posted by on Aug 16, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

I hoisted the birdbath bowl over my head and walked to the office.  Minutes earlier, Mama had taken on the task of cleaning out the muck and placing it in the sun to dry.   Now, I placed the birdbath on the stand and realized thirty years ago the birdbath entered our family.

My father wasn’t a supporter of child labor laws, but in my fifth and sixth grade years it certainly felt like he was.  Directly across the street from our home was a flower nursery.  Dad thought I needed to learn work skills.  My entrance to the workforce started with me punching a time clock after school at our friendly neighborhood  nursery.

wpid222-IMG_1693.jpgOf this new arrangement, I was not a fan.  Some of my jobs involved a wheelbarrow, pitchfork, and placing mulch around new trees.  Other jobs were moving pots (while trying not to break them), cleaning windows (which my sister had to provide a training session) and any other base task that was necessary to complete.  For this great enjoyment, I received minimum wage.

The first cash in my pocket from the sweat of my brow was less than I had anticipated and involved figuring out why this group called FICA kept taking a huge chunk of my check.  Two things were afforded to me from this experience:  a discount off any item at the nursery and the where-withall to pay for the purchase.  I utilized both of them to buy my mother a large birdbath that has managed to stay in the family for three decades.

There was a clear method to Dad’s madness and let me tell you, that madness continued through my junior high and high school years.  From age thirteen on, I became a mowing fool in an effort to earn money to finance my college career.  Work, whether it was around the house or for a customer, was a constant growing up.

Much later in life, Dad and I were headed back from a trip to drop of Grandma at her home in Holton, Kansas.   Dad quickly glanced at a field on the side of the road.  “I think I plowed that field when I was in high school,” Dad said.

“Were you working for someone else?” I responded.  The field was clearly far away from the Buss homestead.

“Yep.  I think the crop all died that year.”

“Died?”  I was struggling to catch the full significance of the memory.

“Yeah, I had taken the field, planted it and it all died.  Either my sophomore or junior year,” he responded.  His head had already turned back to the road and the topic appeared  to be a thing of the past.

Stunned, I finally put all the pieces together.  In high school my father had taken on the responsibility of buying seed, investing his own money and time into a field, and then seeing zero return on the investment.   And to top it off, his attitude treated the experience like it was merely a part of life.   I gained a bit more perspective that day on why he valued learning a work ethic.



“Don’t make me work in the pooky!” my Mom would say.

“Miss, Pop has you working in the pooky. Deal with it!”  Uncle Tom would reply.

Working in the pooky was a dirty area along the rock steps leading to the dock at my grandparents house on the Lake of the Ozarks.  For much of my childhood, the kids and grandkids would make occasional weekend trips to the Lake.  Enjoying the water was a top priority but it was always understood that everyone would do some type of chores.

Not all the jobs were in the pooky.  Sometimes we got to burn leaves. . . or in one case, accidentally burn my grandmother’s blue spruce.  Over several summers, I swept the garage more times than I can count, learned to use a weedeater, and became the next generation lawnmower.

Our Three Layers Deep household now has five young, active boys that are growing up with the same mantra that has been alive and well in my own family for at least two generations, if not much longer.   When I see patterns like this, my mind quickly jumps to a familiar Bible verse – “visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18).  Clearly a negative connotation that fails to fit the concept of work ethic but pushes my mind to ask this question:  “If God promises to visit patterns of iniquities onto future generations, what will He do for obedience of His commands?”

That question drives me to this passage in Deuteronomy 7:9 – “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

wpid216-IMG_2144.jpgDid I teach my oldest son to weed eat or did my wife teach our boys to do their own laundry for the express purpose of learning a work ethic that would help them obey God’s commands?  May not have been our first thought, but it’s comforting to know that our efforts to build a work ethic are continuing a multi-generational trend that ultimately can bring honor to God and help create a strong foundation for the fourth, fifth or who knows how many future generations.

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