Work Is a Blessing
By Lafayette Young
Work is a blessing to the human race.
If this had remained a workless world, it would have been a homeless
world. The progress of the human race began when work began. When work
began, men began to wear clothes; thus progress commenced.
Industry and happiness go hand in hand.
Men who feel that they are doomed to daily toil, and that there is no
so-called emancipation from the daily routine, imagine that happiness
would be theirs if they did not have to work. The man whose employment
compels him to get up at six o'clock in the morning imagines if he
could just get out of that slavery he would ask for no greater
happiness. But if he ever does reach that condition he will find out
what true misery is.
Some years ago the warden of the Iowa penitentiary told me that he had
a prisoner serving a long term, who begged a day off. He wanted to stop
the regular routine. He wanted to be set free in the courtyard for one
day. He wanted to look straight up at the sky, and to breathe the air
of the outdoors. I was at the penitentiary the day the prisoner's
request was granted, and at ten o'clock the prisoner had grown tired of
idleness. The sky had lost its attraction. There was something missing.
And he got word to the warden that he wished to be returned to labor.
There are millions of men toiling in factories and in mines, laying
brick on tall buildings, swinging cranes in the great iron mills,
tending the machines in cotton or woolen mills, who think that they
would be perfectly happy if they were once perfectly idle. But their
experience would be like that of the prisoner's.
What a wretched world this would be without work! How many things we
have which are indispensable, that we would not have but for somebody's
work. Work has built every great bridge, every great cathedral, every
home, large or small. It has made every invention. Work found man in a
cave, and put him into a good home. Work has made man decent and
The great nations are the working nations; the great peoples are the
working peoples. Nations, like individuals, date their prosperity and
happiness from the beginning of work. The start was made when man gave
attention to the primal curse of the race recorded in the book of
Genesis: "By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou
return to the ground." This mandate has never been repealed. Lazy men
in all parts of the world have undertaken to nullify it. The ambition
for idleness fills jails and penitentiaries. It causes man to commit
forgeries and murders. Every man slugged in a dark alley is put out of
the way by some other man desiring money without working for it.
There has been a foolish notion in many countries in regard to labor.
They do not consider it dignified. In some countries, missionary
families learn that they cannot cook their own victuals without losing
caste. In other countries a certain number of servants must be kept if
the family would be respected. In our own country there is a false
pride in regard to labor. Young men avoid the learning of trades
because they do not wish to soil their hands. Laboring men themselves
have been guilty of not sufficiently estimating their own callings.
They demand the rights of their class, but fail to respect it
themselves. This causes many young men to seek some employment which
will not soil their hands. Many thousands of young men make the mistake
of not having some regular calling, some work which they can do better
than anybody else. The man who has a regular trade is never found
walking the streets looking for a job. Even when he is called old, he
can secure employment.
Industry is indispensable to happiness. Idleness destroys the souls of
more young men, and leads to more forms of dissipation, than any other
The experienced mechanic knows how rapidly and joyfully time passes
when he is interested in his work. He never watches the clock; to him
quitting time comes all too soon.
Labor can be made a joy if man wills it so.
An appreciation of what a man earns and the thought that he can do
something with his money, ought to be a part of the happiness of labor.
Work develops the man. It develops his appreciation of others. He is
likely to be unhappy if he works solely for himself. The Indian hunter,
returning from the chase, lays the evidence of his prowess at the feet
of his squaw. He is glad that he has accomplished something, and in her
eyes he is a hero.
Once I was driving in the Allegheny Mountains in the early summer.
Unexpectedly I came to a little cottage almost covered with flowers and
vines. A brown-faced woman with pruning shears was at her work. Around
her bees were humming, and birds were twittering. I sought to buy some
flowers. She said she never had sold a flower in her life. I asked her
what induced her to work early and late, cultivating, planting and
pruning. She said, "I do this work because I enjoy it, and because my
husband and two sons will enjoy these flowers when they come home at
night." This woman had the whole philosophy of human happiness. If
there are women in heaven she will be there.
Work came as a blessing. It remains as a blessing. It makes us tired so
that we can enjoy sleep. We awaken in the morning refreshed for a new
day. When kings and queens shall be no more, when autocracy shall end,
when the voices of intelligent men and women shall govern, then if work
shall be universal, thus satisfying the energy, and giving direction to
the ambitions of men, there will be no more wars.
To make work enjoyable, men and women must be proud of it; must not
pretend that they are above it; must not apologize for it. Once I was
in Holland. I saw women with a peculiar headdress as if they belonged
to some lodge. They wore smiling faces. I inquired what their regalia
meant, and was told that they were working women of the peasant or some
other humble class. They were proud of their position. They were
content, with plenty to do. They enjoyed the society of their families
and friends. But their happiness consisted in being proud of, and
satisfied with, the things they were doing. Who can say that they have
not chosen the better part?