Country Living Series

Monday, August 23, 2010

Finding dignity on your hands and knees

I’m going to get hammered for this, but I feel it’s something that needs to be said.

We need to stop looking to the government to bail us out, either individually or collectively, when times get tough. Doing so may save us in the short-term, but in the long-term we’re sacrificing our national and personal independence.

What do I mean by this?

I mean that a refusal to depend on one’s self and one’s circle of support (friends, family, etc.) and instead depending on government largess when times are tough inexorably leads down the road toward socialism and the forced redistribution of wealth and assets. Here’s a harsh but true column (the truth is often harsh) that discusses this further.

At a time when the difference between dependence and independence was literally life and death – such as when the early Pilgrims were struggling to stay alive in a harsh new land – the settlers tried the warm fuzzy strategy of socialism and learned it was a colossal flop that led towards starvation. (Here’s an essay on the subject.) The settlers only succeeded when it was mandated that it was every man for himself. Personal responsibility and private property were embraced, and Plymouth Colony subsequently flourished.

But now, when an unwillingness to work is rewarded and subsidized by a bloated and overspent government, socialism works just fine… until, as Margaret Thatcher so bitingly noted, we run out of other peoples’ money. And when that time comes, we will be left with millions of people who don’t know how to work. That time is rapidly approaching, if not already here.

Over the years this has become a serious annoyance to me – that people are unwilling to work, dammit.

We know some folks who, like so many others in this economy, lost their jobs. Naturally they’ve been diligently searching for new employment commensurate with their impressive experience and credentials. But in the meantime, to keep body and soul together, they’re pulling weeds.

Yes really. For several months, all throughout the summer, these people (in their 50’s) are on their hands and knees in other peoples’ yards and gardens, pulling weeds. “Where’s their dignity?” you might ask. I’ll tell you where their dignity is: it’s in their hands and knees, pulling weeds. These folks aren’t asking for a handout from the government. They are doing whatever it takes to keep aloft in a rotten economy. And I have far more respect for them because they’re willing to do “lowly” work. God bless them.

I know other unemployed people who would be horrified at the thought. Lower myself to pull weeds? Me? With my education, job skills, and experience? I’d rather collect government money and diligently search for a job that really reflects who I am.


Look, I know unemployment benefits have saved a lot of peoples’ fannies. But it has also led (for many, not all) toward a careless attitude about employment. I know a man who dillied and dallied and went fishing and watched television for a year and a half while collecting unemployment and half-heartedly looking for a job. You would never catch him pulling weeds. Ever. It was only when his benefits were about to expire that he finally rallied himself and decided to really look for a job. Amazingly, even in this rural area rife with high unemployment, he found full-time work within a couple of weeks. Gee, go figure.

What most people don’t realize is the dangerous trend heralded by this government safety net. The dreaded condition of socialism doesn’t come in one blinding flash of lightening. No, it comes through creeping apathy, from a preference to go fishing rather than weed someone’s garden because, after all, there’s a safety net (unemployment benefits) to catch them. See my point? Government safety nets are fine and good for immediate help, but they also make people careless and indifferent. Creep creep.

My husband and I have been self-employed for seventeen years. We have no safety net beyond what we ourselves install. If our home business fails or reaches the point where it can no longer support us, we have no choice but to seek other sources of income. We cannot look to the government to help us because it won’t.

And therein, I believe, is the genesis of my passion on this topic. When you cannot look to the government to save your fanny, you have no choice but to sharpen your own skills and utilize your own resources in order to save your fanny. And – here’s a thought – most of the time your fanny gets saved through your own efforts. Gee, go figure.

Please don’t misinterpret this to mean I find no compassion for those who cannot work. There is a world of different between cannot and will not. That’s why the classic verse of 2 Thessalonians 3:10 was phrased the way it was: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” It doesn’t say cannot work, it says will not. (Here are other Bible verses that support a work ethic.)

Like the early Pilgrims who discovered that starvation was an excellent motivator, the only thing that will save this nation is if millions of people who are waiting for the government to save them will get off their butts and start weeding gardens. Or waiting tables. Or scrubbing toilets. Or mopping floors. Or delivering pizzas. Or doing whatever it takes to be able to lift their chins with dignity and say, “I refuse to let someone else save my fanny.”

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.


  1. i for one willnot hammer you on this one..i applaud you for saying what alot of folks are thinking. i have been layed off from a partime,no benefit job since 1 december 2008..but i have not been still. i make homemade useful things like sewing kits, quilts, fabric bookcovers, cellphone cases with secret pockets and so on..everything being useful, and no two items alike. i actually made a little money the last two months. i am not deep in debt and i believe i am a prepper for worse times to come...and i believe they will...and i plan to survive.

  2. Bravo! Bravo! Preach it, Girlfriend!

  3. YOU, my friend, are the hope for this nation. God bless you and keep you successful in your work.

    - Patrice

  4. We have a friend that is going on almost 2 years of collecting unemployment. What really fries me is that they are on our prayer chain and the constant pleading for prayers for him to find a job gets really old. Not just ANY job, he wants to do what he has always done. He wants the same wage he has always made.

    Here is an idea--how about we all pray for him to pull his head out and go learn how to do something other than what he CAN'T find a job doing?? Hellooooo.....

  5. Picture me applauding madly.
    Donna B.

  6. Been laid off until July for two years solid. I took temp jobs worked side work for any one who would pay. I was even on the edge of applying for fast food. I was talked out of that because I am unable to stand for the long hours required. I those two years I averaged 50 contacts a week to find a job. I finally found a job at less then 2/3's what I was making 2 years ago. but it is a paycheck. But still loookinf for one in my field

  7. Good soapbox. I am at the lower end of the income brackets. I have done seasonal farm work (Pulled weeds). I know those people who scrub toilets (janitors) and I know those on the government dole. Perhaps it's just my perception, but it seems to me that those who work hard at what jobs they can get are less inclined to misbehavior. Those on the dole have idle time on their hands, and too frequently get drawn into drugs, alcohol, and other iniquities.
    And the welfare programs are designed to keep you there. If you have ANY outside income they cut off or reduce your benefits before you've saved up enough to let go of the welfare reigns entirely. It takes months of wrangling and paperwork to get benefits back if this extra income was temporary, or didn't become permanent.

  8. Again I'm reassured I'm in good company here. No snivelers, no slackers, no suckers.

    We have a dear neighbor who's a well educated and sophisticated lady in her early 60's who pulls weeds, cleans houses and is selling off her possessions at yard sales to get by after losing her professional position two years ago. She's alone in the world, except for her friends. No husband, no kids, no siblings, no parents. She's too young to reclaim the social security funds she's been forced to pay into the system all her working life, and has little reason to believe any will be forthcoming when she does reach filing age.

    My husband and I have a small, struggling business and, like you and Don, have no government safety net. But we are forced to provide one for the employees we
    occasionally need to hire. We lose money every time we have to hire outside help, but when it's that or zero we swallow hard and choose the lesser of the two evils. We're buried under ever-escalating taxes
    and fees, and see a huge new wave of them looming darkly on the horizon. How people without faith get through these times I just don't know.

    So amen, Patrice, amen, and not just from the practical perspective. There's also an overarching spiritual aspect to all this, in my humble opinion.

    We also need to be on our knees calling on our Father to forgive, show mercy and restore this nation, blessed apparently beyond the human comprehension of too many of its citizens.

    Of course we also need to be talking to Him as we go about our daily activities, including Him, thanking Him, and asking for His Wisdom, Strength, Healing and Guidance, but I'm sure most if us get the point about the value, symbolism and dignity of being on our knees before Him.

    It just might be the original version of multi-tasking: pullin' and prayin'.

    The prayers of a righteous person availeth much.

    So prayers up, team.

    A. McSp

  9. I've done all sorts of jobs. Most of them were pretty unpleasant in some way or another. If you need to make money you get the best job you can find. Let it pay the bills while you look for a better one.

  10. Anyone who would be critical of this post is responding emotionally without thinking. We do have a problem with rewarding failure in this country. One of my work friends has a neighbor who receives SSI benefits because he is too obese to work. My place of business has over 60 job openings and we are at 10% unemployment? That says to me there are jobs people simply are too proud to do and they should not be rewarded for that attitude. There is no shame in providing for your family even if it is stinky ugly work.

  11. The great majority of your column is in total sync with my own thoughts. However, you said, "Government safety nets are fine and good for immediate help...." That's where we part ways. I don't believe they are ever good. Even a single cent in government assistance is redistribution of wealth through strong-arm tactics (read that as the IRS). I stand against it.

    Instead, I support non-profit safety nets that are not attached to the government. They get their financial backing from donations - not from taxation. Taxpayers CHOOSE to donate, they are not forced to do so. It's a win-win solution to unemployment. Anyone who is permanently unable to work will get aid from non-profits that provide longterm assistance - again done through donations, not taxes. Think about all the non-profit groups and organizations in this country, they get tax-exempt status. They pay no taxes. They should have to EARN that exemption, and by providing services directly to the people in need, they would earn that exemption.

    I've been unemployed. I know how disturbing it is. I also know my support system was not the government - it was my savings account, my family, and my friends. Relying on friends and family and watching my savings dwindle provided a very real incentive for me to find a job - any job. Fortunately, I found one quickly and could slowly rebuild my savings. My family and friends KNOW I'll be there for them if/when they fall on hard times. That's what friends and family are all about - not just people we see at Thanksgiving or funerals.

    We need to rebuild our family ties for a thousand different reasons, and helping each other is one of those reasons. Get to it! Call a family member today and start to re-connect. We will stand united or we will fall apart.

    Other than that, Patrice, your opinion piece is a bullseye at 300 yards - on the mark.

    Anonymous Patriot

  12. Patrice-
    The truth, is the truth, is the truth! We need more like you out there willing to speak it!!!

    Keep it up!!!

  13. Patrice -

    We had been married for only two months when I took a job halfway across the country. For the day and my experience I was paid OK, but the owner had financial problems and the paychecks kept on getting later and later. Mine wound up 7 weeks late and some others had greater delays. By the grace of God we were able to keep the rent payments current, and not only feed ourselves but have food to bring into work for others who were worse off.

    Years later in another part of the country with 4 kids at home and a mortgage, the largest employer in our state laid off 12,000, then the largest employer near us laid off 5,000 engineers, then I lost my job. The engineering temporary agencies laughed at me when I called them. Lower pay jobs refused to hire me because they knew I would leave if a job opened up in my field. I sent resumes to all the employers in my field for several states around, and then later nationwide. I worked odd jobs and even did a bit of service work for the largest employer in the state. We lived off savings and the bit my wife earned driving senior citizens. By the grace of God we made our mortgage payments on time, and kept 4 growing and hungry sons fed. After the third round of resumes sent nationwide and 10 months of unemployment, I landed a temporary job 2/3 the way across the USA.

    The next 10 months were the hardest of our entire marriage since I was stuck 1700 miles from home and my wife was having to deal with 4 teenage boys, running the house, and working without me. God got us through that situation, and after 10 months the job became permanent and I was able to move the family to where I was.

    Lessons from what we went through included not counting on a job being there tomorrow (I had no clue up to the day I lost my job that my job was not "secure"). Pray. Do what work you can even if it is part time and not what you want. Don't be afraid to move if that is what it takes to have employment.

    I hope and pray we never have a similar situation again. I am somewhat prepared since I now have several side businesses I could build up if I lost my day job.

    Mostly we would work at what we could and pray that God would lead.

  14. What would the unemployment situation look like if "most people" were not caught up in the routine of mortgage, multiple car payments, and spending on home improvements that don't add functionality? What would it look like if homesteading were the norm, when you build what you can afford, and drive what you can buy with cash?

    It seems to me that a lot of the grief revolves around people accepting long term financial commitments when the job market no longer supports lifelong careers at one employer and yearly raises. Why does it only dawn on people that signing a 30 year financial commitment for a stick house thrown together in a month or two, might have been a bad move when they (surprise!) lose their jobs?

    Patrice - how much is property tax for rural farmland? It's very low, isn't it? So low that you could probably pick up aluminum cans when the opportunity presents itself and cover the cost. If you own the property free and clear, built the house and outbuildings yourself with materials you bought for cash, and own a paid for used car, how much would you need for utilities, food, and normal expenses? The dollar amount is low. You're not going to get a mega salary living in the sticks, but how is that different from *having* a mega salary only to spend it on that crappy McHouse and accouterments you *assume* represent success?

    My point is that the mega salary and matched mega expenses represent a massive risk, as we have seen with the wailing from the unemployed. The salary is potentially very fleeting, the expenses much less so. If you became unemployed with paid-for land, house, and transportation, your problems narrow down to essentials of power, water, and food. That's when the weed pulling and driving the elderly can sustain you, because you just don't need that much for the necessities. Anything more is gravy and adds to your savings or preps as a further buffer against continued hard times.

    If you still *have* a great paying job, the strife around you might be the sledgehammer upside the head warning you it can't last. I'm sure steam locomotive engineers thought they had it made with the massive engines produced after WW2. Then diesel electrics came out and their whole livelihood disappeared almost overnight. How do you think piston engine airplane mechanics fared when jets overtook the scene within a decade, easily within a short working lifetime. Industries change. Jobs go away. It's part of life and if you don't pay attention to history, you may be in store for surprises a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.

  15. In reality it doesn't matter how great or how little your income. As Mr. Micawber pointed out: ."Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
    And in today's world those who get by on least are doing least harm to the environment.

  16. And I can't resist a quotation specially for A.McSp:
    "Prayer is like a rocking chair - it'll give you something to do , but it won't get you anywhere." ~ Gypsy Rose Lee.

  17. Aw shucks, Quedula. For a moment I was actually going to AGREE with you about something (6:43 comment), but never mind (6:48 comment).

    - Patrice

  18. Cross posted @

    Great post! I must pass it on.

    I was a telecom tech, but I grew up on a small family farm that got toasted in '78. We just moved to a 2 acre place, surrounded by farmland. I hope to build it up as a garden spot. Your post speaks to me, and I thank you for it.

  19. Good job, Patrice.

    And remember folks, don't feed the trolls.
    But do pray for them.


  20. Mmm.. I have a feeling I'm going to enjoy this blog very much :)

  21. There won't be any hammering from me. I was raised that if you needed work, you did what had to be done whether that meant digging ditches, picking apple or what have you. I used to complain about my mom and dad and their frugal ways (both grew up during the Great Depression and were married in 1946-rationing time). I now do the same things she did to make ends meet and I'm proud to say I do.

  22. You are allowed to agree about some things and not about others Patrice. It would be a boring world if we all agreed all the time. ;-)

  23. Cathy 12:59: Same here. Folks met while picking lemons and married in '46. I tell folks I wasn't born to the Great Depression,
    but I sure was raised by it.

    A. McSp

  24. So what about those who cannot work, the mental ill and people that have physical aliments that impair them from working. As a person that has both I would rather work but the pain and the loss of work from mental illness is very taxing. Should I just up and die? I think not. Am I entitled to something but even the bible recognized the fact that people should be doing more for the poor, which I am, and affirmed. But every society will not reach out and give that helping hand. This is were the government steps in because the society failed. Of course it then it becomes a different failure. In conclusion so the rich just be allowed to exist and the poor die?

    1. Dennis has God EVER instructed us to abandon the poor and let them die? His instructions for mercy and charity are all over the Bible. What He is NOT instructing us to do is to prop up the lazy and enable the people who won't do a day's work even when they're perfectly capable of doing so. There is an enormous difference between those who CANNOT work (mental or physical impairment, age, illness, disability, etc.) and those who WILL NOT work.

      - Patrice

  25. So what about those who cannot work, the mental ill and people that have physical aliments that impair them from working. As a person that has both I would rather work but the pain and the loss of work from mental illness is very taxing. Should I just up and die? I think not. Am I entitled to something but even the bible recognized the fact that people should be doing more for the poor, which I am, and affirmed. But every society will not reach out and give that helping hand. This is were the government steps in because the society failed. Of course it then it becomes a different failure. In conclusion so the rich just be allowed to exist and the poor die?