“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.
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).
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