This week a friend of mine stepped on a nail and had to get a tetanus shot. It reminded me of the many times I injured myself as a child growing up back home in Attawapiskat. I was always around the family construction business and by the time I was 12, I was driving a half-ton truck around town and operating tractors. You can imagine the close calls I had at that early age, but that is what life was like back there in those wild days up north.
We kids were always expected to pitch in and help as soon as we were old enough to pick stuff up, carry things around, hammer a nail or split wood. Often while doing these chores we were injured in one way or the other and most of the time it was not serious. However, we were also very concerned about getting hurt because there was no fulltime doctor in the community, although we had lots of competent nurses and a good hospital.
My first injury was a very severe one when I broke my leg at the age of seven. Actually, the break involved both of the bones below my knee. I was helping my brothers push our half-ton truck out of ice and snow when a bit of plywood that was under the tires for traction spun back and caught me in the legs. I was in the hospital for a while and had a cast on for six months.
Also in those early teen years I broke small bones in my hands and wrists working on construction projects and playing sports. It seemed like I was always covered in bandages as I continually ended up with scrapes, cuts and bruises on my legs, arms and body. By the time I was 18 I felt like a seasoned carpenter, heavy machinery operator, transportation driver and general labourer. Come to think about it, my actual childhood and play period was very brief as I spent most of my time working.
You might think that I would regret this but in fact I am very grateful to my family for giving me a good amount of experience in many areas and for providing me with a good work ethic. I am never bored as I am constantly writing, reading, working in media and, of course, I still get down and dirty in all types of labour at home and at the cottage.
I love cutting down old trees and the challenge that this offers and I also like splitting wood. You won’t catch me with one of those automatic wood splitters because this type of labour is like a meditation for me. The feeling of working all day and being tired from doing something very beneficial to my life and the lives of others makes my day. Putting on a fire at night thanks to my efforts in wood cutting and splitting is very satisfying. Building something I can be proud of and that gives me shelter and comfort is a joy for me.
This week I found myself teaching my friend Rene how to split wood. He did his best to chop away at the old poplar and pine logs and I think he was surprised that he could actually accomplish this very important activity. It seemed to me that he understood that all-important link between doing good work with the result of providing warmth for the family cottage. People need to learn about and work at developing a work ethic from a young age. We live in a world of visual electronics where you can almost live a virtual life so it is more important than ever to remind young people around us that nothing is free and that it is important to work smart and continually make life rewarding.
We just don’t see the connection of effort to the things we receive to live these days. When we are hungry, we simply go to the grocery store and buy what we need and these stores in the south stay open 24 hours. When we need warmth, we just turn up a dial. When we need entertainment, we turn to television or the internet and the computer. Nothing seems to require real effort and I know a lot of parents who make life so easy for their kids that the understanding of a work ethic is missing. That is a tragedy.
I am happy. I grew up with the necessity of having to learn how to build things, work on engines, chop wood, harvest game and birds for food and contribute to the comforts of my life with real hands-on efforts. To tell the truth, I have paid much with all the injuries I have received over the years for the working knowledge I have, but I wear these scars like medals. I am proud of my love for work.