Sweating builds character

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The man sweating under the heat of a southern sun on a tractor. The woman digging in the dirt, taking motherly care to grow butter beans. The crew strong-arming heavy equipment on an oil rig. There’s a lot to be said about hard work. People don’t sweat anymore. They don’t have blisters on their hands. Hard work. It builds a person in every way.

I’ve seen my Daddy ride on his tractor until sundown; seen him chop wood and build fences. My grandma has a vegetable garden and a yard that could be compared to the Garden of Eden. And you won’t see her grass getting a half-inch too tall.

Some people look down on farmers and hard working country folk – think they’re simple minded or not cultured. I respect them the most. I have respect for a man with calluses on his hands – for a woman who painted her own porch. People don’t paint their own porches anymore.

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Hard work builds character. I’ve heard it all my life and I know it to be true. Go dig in the dirt some and you’ll see. Scrub down windows and yield your own okra. You’ll feel better. I know I do. I used to enjoy washing down my great-grandma’s screened-in porch. Sunshine, a bucket of soapy water and a tune to hum was all I needed.

These days, everyone sits at a computer all day. So do I. My daddy works at a desk a lot of the time, but as soon as he gets home, he’s working – sweating. Nobody sweats anymore. Workers are hired to plant flowers, chop wood and scrub floors. These workers are stealing character from the hirers – character that should’ve been theirs.

My fiancĂ©’s a hard worker. He works on an oilrig most of the month, and when he’s home, he’s helping someone fix a floor or build a wheelchair ramp. You can’t keep him from helping someone in need. You also can’t keep him from helping Daddy clear a piece of land or finish building the huge deck for our wedding. I like that Jacob’s hands feel rough when I hold them.

I can’t explain how sweating builds character – how accomplishing something on your own makes you a better person, but it does. There’s something about doing things on your own, about earning things on your own. And I’m preaching to myself here. Our culture has become lazy. I’ve become lazy. When I come home, I’m mentally drained from a long day at work; but lately I’ve been running every evening. Physical labor is also a great stress reliever. I know Daddy’s had a hard day a work when I hear the chainsaw crank up.

My sister and I lived on bicycles as children and my MoMo paid us to pick up all her pinecones. We had chores – do kids have chores anymore?

Of course, Southwest Mississippi does not have a shortage of sweaters (not the winter garment, but hard working people). We’re hard working people down here in the south and the most moral. Somehow, I think they go hand-in-hand.

I’ll always have respect for the man and woman that sweat under the southern sun, with calluses on their hands and evidence of their labor. That’s something to be proud of.

Lifestyles Editor Jessica Boyd can be reached at The Daily Leader at 601-833-6961 ext. 134, by email at jessica.boyd@dailyleader.com or you can write to her at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602.