On a recent afternoon visit to historic Legion Stadium, I watched our band and football teams practicing. I was impressed at what they were doing to fine-tune their talents and relieved that it wasn’t me. Those long, hot days of practice are distant in time but not in my memory!
Friday nights in the Fall are some of the most exciting times in high school. They are a culmination of extraordinary efforts that begin long before the season starts. Football players, band members, and cheerleaders have practiced for months leading up to the first game. Winning makes the night most enjoyable. My real appreciation for extra-curricular activities, however, is how it reinforces the importance of work to our young people.
From an early age, I worked. My parents believed in the importance of developing a strong work ethic. My earliest jobs included chores at home, mowing lawns, lifeguarding, bagging groceries, and changing tires. The most interesting job I had was one that I never sought out; my father came home one day and told me I would start picking peaches at the local orchard at 6:00 AM the following morning. While I did not appreciate it as much back then, I am thankful and indebted to my mom and dad for teaching me the value of hard work.
Proverbs 14:23 says that “all hard work brings a profit”. Sometimes the profit is experience; sometimes it is money. More often, however, it teaches a lesson on the impact of producing something of value. Unfortunately, the fruits of hard work seem not to taste as good as they once did.
The idea of becoming wealthy or living extravagantly at an early age without the sacrifice of work seems to be an expectation today. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse commits an entire chapter on the importance of work in his book The Vanishing American Adult. His prior experiences as a university president caused him to conclude that we are raising a generation of young people with “an outsized sense of entitlement without any corresponding notion of accountability”. In a nation built on rugged individualism, that is quite a change.
Senator Sasse echoes what prior generations in America know to be true; that producing is more gratifying than consuming. When our Aggies play games on Friday night, it is satisfying to see them experience the results of their efforts. It is fun to see the excitement on our cheerleaders’ faces as they finish a routine that has taken months to perfect. It is enjoyable to listen to our band soulfully play beautiful renditions of old songs that took a summer to learn. What they produce happens because they worked hard.
The Auburn University Creed reads, in part, “I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.” The results of hard work on the athletic field are evident each Friday night. The virtue of hard work in the classroom will be evident over a lifetime. I can think of no better creed for our children to follow throughout the school year.
Senator Sasse states that “a hallmark of virtuous adulthood is learning to find freedom in your work, rather than freedom from you work.” I hope to always carry the zeal for work that my parents taught me. As a community, we must impress upon our children that the lessons taught from hard work will be needed in every step of their life. Producing fruit takes time, patience, and extraordinary effort. In this practical world, it is the key ingredient for earning and achieving your goals.
Dr. Todd Freeman is Superintendent of Sylacauga City Schools. Almost 2,400 students are enrolled in Sylacauga’s school system — Sylacauga High School, Indian Valley Elementary School, Nichols-Lawson Middle School, and Pinecrest Elementary School. Follow Dr. Freeman on Twitter at mtfreeman or visit www.sylacauga.k12.al.us.