My mother has a habit of declaring at various times each day, “I guess I’m just lazy.” She usually does this after a nap or after sitting on the back porch to read a book or even after yawning as the day stretches into night. I’m always a bit perplexed after these declarations. My mother is one of the least lazy people I’ve ever known! She worked hard outside the home her entire adult life, first as a young bride and then as a young widow with two children. Her job was very important to her, and doing well at her job was a non-negotiable. The work ethic I have now can be attributed to the model she was and is for me. Mom’s co-workers, friends and family would all say she is a hard-worker.
So, that’s why these fairly recent announcements of “I guess I’m just lazy” have bothered me so much. Somehow my 84-year old Mom equates rest with being lazy. And I don’t exactly know when that idea developed for her.
I remember my grandmother (her mother) taking time each day to rest and relax. She, too, worked hard each day of her life. Grandma worked outside the home (when that wasn’t really the thing that married women did) including stints at a button factory and at a laundromat. In fact, her two decades working at the laundromat began when she was in her 70s! That’s right. She worked into her 90s. Every Monday through Friday, 12:00-4:00 PM. Walked the block to work each day and then washed and folded people’s laundry before making the short trek back home to do daily chores in the home. No laziness there!
But I also remember Grandma taking time to watch her favorite TV shows, listen to her Arkansas Razorbacks play on the radio, read books and magazines, putter in her garden, take naps, sing along to her favorite record and sit on the porch.
The porch-sitting is one of my favorite memories. The back porch was the favorite spot for sitting with a cup of coffee in the morning to watch the birds playing in the yard. It was a prime spot at night to watch the bug zapper sizzle with the occasional confrontation of moths and mosquitoes.
Then there was the front porch. It was a massive covered brick and concrete structure that extended the width of the house. Littered with old metal chairs for anyone wishing to sit and visit, it was the gathering place for family, friends and neighbors to watch the world go by on the busy street in front of the house. Over the years, my grandparents provided rooms for boarding in the huge upstairs of their home. Residents would wander down to the porch to join my grandparents after dinner for a glass of sweet iced tea, storytelling and people watching. No one ever considered the daily habit of porch-sitting to be lazy.
So, how did my mother come to equate rest with laziness?
Our society leans toward activity. Wayne Muller says in his book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, “Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something—anything—is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed, to meet these ever-growing expectations, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor.”
Merriam-Webster has the following as the first definition of the word lazy:
I can assure you that my mother is not averse to hard work. She takes care of her house and husband and four cats, cooks, cleans, runs errands and even checks regularly on friends older than she. But every time Mom takes a nap or sits for a little while to enjoy a book or goes to bed earlier than the rest of the household, she thinks she is being lazy.
My hope is that Mom will remember that rest was important to her parents and that they made time each day for rest and relaxation. I hope that Mom will remember that God rested after the work of creation and established that model for all of us. I hope that Mom will recognize that rest is restorative and that at this point in her life is well-deserved. Most of all, I hope that Mom won’t think of herself as lazy. I want her to see herself as I see her: the woman who showed me how to work hard and who instilled in me the value of a balanced life—feeling good about a job well done and appreciating those moments of rest and reflection that help me to be thankful for a life well-lived.
Quotation from: Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller, 1999.
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