Building - Planning Life Work
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
EVERY child should be taught from infancy that he or she has a work to do in the world. As soon as the little ones are old enough to help in trifles about the house, give them little things to do. The tiny girl may, with a dust-cloth, wipe off the rungs of the chairs; the boy can feed the chickens, if he live in the country, or brush off the walk, or can run errands, or go up and down stairs to save Father and Mother extra exertion. The children should know that home is a hive in which there are no drones. This knowledge will prepare the mind for the thought of life's labor. As the child leaves the nursery, if he shows a preference for a special line of industry, give him all available opportunities to be-come familiar with that in which he is most interested. If he is fond of machinery, or interested in electricity, or likes drawing, direct his thoughts along those lines. The lad who expresses a desire to be an electrical engineer should be taken to electrical exhibits, and urged to read the various articles on electricity that appear in scientific magazines and cyclopedias. If another son thinks he "would like to be a physician," encourage him to study anatomy, physiology, and chemistry.
There are many children who do not decide until they are nearly through with school or college what career they will select. In such cases, await developments rather than urge the youth to take up a certain line of work upon which you, the parent, have "set your heart," but which is distasteful to him.
As to the girl, she should be taught, first of all, that every woman should be a good housekeeper. She must appreciate that the health of mankind depends largely upon the character of the homes in which they live and the kind of food they eat. It is, therefore, an important and a dignified occupation to cook, and to keep house, and to sew. Besides these most necessary occupations, have your girl learn to do some one thing well, something by which she will be able, if necessary, to support herself. In years to come this may be a safeguard for her, as well as a means of livelihood. To be able to declare confidently, "This one thing I do!" is to in-sure her an honorable and comfortable livelihood whether she ever marries or not.
To prepare our children for men's and women's work we must deny them an idle childhood. The horse that is to drag heavy loads must be trained gradually and carefully to the harness before he is so old that his habits are formed. Other-wise, to make him of use his spirit must be broken, and the soft and flaccid muscles will suffer under the unaccustomed burdens laid upon them.
Speak of work as a privilege, not as a trial. Work suited to one's strength and one's taste is a blessing. It is only uncongenial and unjust labor that is a curse.
Any one may find innumerable examples of life-work well planned and executed in Volumes VI and IX-both being full of great deeds achieved in science, politics, literature, etc. Read carefully, for instance, the account of Bernard Palissy in the latter volume. Again, examine that part of Volume VIII devoted to inventors. In Volume IX we can heartily recommend "The Start and the Goal" and "Find Your Special Talent." The "Home Study" section of Volume X should prove invaluable to a wide circle of serious-minded, aspiring young people. Let them not fail to read, again and again, the "Address to the Indolent" in Volume XI.