For the Sake of His Children

cuttingwood

“But would the father have the heart to work if he didn’t have his children?
If it weren’t for the sake of his children.
And in winter when he works hard.
In the forest.
When he works the hardest.
With his billhook and with his saw and with his felling axe and with his hand axe.
In the icy forest. . . .
His children will do better than he, of course.
And the world will go better.
Later.
He’s not jealous of it.
On the contrary.
Nor for having come to the world, as he did, in an ungrateful time.
And to have no doubt prepared for his sons a time that is perhaps less ungrateful.
What madman would be jealous of his sons and of the sons of his sons.
Doesn’t he work solely for his children?”
Charles Péguy, from The Portal of the Mystery of Hope

Work grows wearisome. Virgil says that all year round the laborer “treads in his own tracks.” (Georgics, II) Often it is hard to see the point. Especially when your tracks are in the snow. Will my work every lift me beyond my work?

But work done for others can lift me beyond itself. It is more than just my work, because it is for them. Then even if I work alone, I am not alone.

The times in which we live seem to be ungrateful. Ungrateful in so many ways. But my work, faithfully carried out, can prepare a time less-ungrateful. That others will enjoy. And for this I can be very grateful; even now.

Charles Peguy (1873-1914) was a French poet and essayist. He died in battle in World War I. The quotation is from The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, trans. David Louis Schindler, Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996).

About John Cuddeback

Author of BaconfromAcorns.com blog.
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2 Responses to For the Sake of His Children

  1. lisaenorton@bellsouth.net says:

    Dr. Cuddeback,   Wonderful reflection on the value of work as it relates to helping, loving, and living for others.   When I read this poem I immediately thought of my Great Uncle Herman who is 89. I know you are a busy man, but please allow me a few lines to tell you about this great man.   Since I was a young girl and even going back way before that, Herman, or Hermie as he is affectionately called, has been a stable presence in my life. He is the brother of my deceased Grandfather and he never married. I was an adult before I knew that Hermie is not even related to me. In fact, my Grandfather married my Grandmother, never adopted my father, and faded away when the marriage ended in divorce. Getting back to the story of Herman is way more interesting than my grandfather’s story, however.   As a child, my father remembers Herman taking him to the circus on his day off and doing the things that his step father never did.  Interestingly, he didn’t just do it for my father, he did it for all the cousins in the family.   Herman worked his entire career for the telephone company. His pay he spent on others, not himself.   Fast forward a generation and Hermie never misses a birthday present or Christmas present for any of the many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren  that came from the marriages of all of his relatives, even those he isn’t related to!   He sends a gift for each with a simple note that he and God both love that person.   I visited Herman for the first time as an adult at his home in Brooklyn , NY this past summer with my husband and my six children. He pointed out his church where he spends several days a week volunteering.  Our impression was of a life lived frugally and very simply. He has never owned a house or a car, despite the means to do so, nor has he has ever traveled for a vacation. Yet his joy is as present as his material objects are absent.   Despite having never had children, he is a father figure to many.   While it is true that simple acts of love that are consistent and selfless are what good parents do, it is also what saints do.   Thanks for the inspiration to jot a few lines about my wonderful Great Uncle Hermie!   Fondly, Lisa Norton, mother of Emily Norton, Sophomore, and Kevin Norton, entering CC Fall 2014.

    ________________________________

    • Dear Lisa,
      I am so very grateful to learn of your great uncle Herman. What an amazing story. He has been a blessing to so many, and now he is also a blessing to me. Thanks again.

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