Oh, Aesop. You make it all so simple. The ant is the ant and the grasshopper is the grasshopper. But I am a little of each. More of one than the other on certain days.
The Bible makes the same point in a more personally applicable way:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
Work hard and put a little away for uncertain times. I get it. I totally do. But in spite of what my children think, I am not a machine.
I remember thinking my dad was a machine. He was so big. So fast! So strong! Dad would work long hours and changing shifts at the mine then come home to play catch or work on a remodeling project. He took leading roles in plays, took college classes and was active in our church. He would pick up the new issue of Compute’s Gazette to work with my sister on the coding project listed in the back of the magazine or read up on tips for how to use Lotus 1-2-3 more effectively on on Commodore 64 (a machine he is still proud to own). He could do anything.
But it turns out my dad is not a machine. He is active, giving and loving but he’s no match for me in a foot race. Turns out he’s mortal. But he’s still more of an ant than I am. Something he inadvertently pointed out to me Wednesday morning.
Wednesday morning. New year’s day. A day off work. Julie and I stayed out late with friends and all of our children coming home around 1:00, four hours after my bedtime. Needless to say we slept in. That’s all grasshopper stuff.
I got up and got started. A snowstorm (well, what we call a snowstorm) was coming through in the next 12 hours and the livestock were not prepared for it. I moved the cows, filled their water, fed them a bale of hay and made plans for additional chores throughout the day before heading back home for breakfast.
But breakfast wasn’t ready. So I sat down to sneak in a few minutes of Super Mario 3D World with the kids…well, with the kids watching. An hour later I was still on the couch. That’s totally grasshopper territory.
Dad came by around that time and asked me what I was hoping to get done before the snow. Well, I need to get the greenhouse closed up, bed the pigs and cut firewood out of the limbs laying in a pile by the back door. The horses need their stalls cleaned. The cows will need another bale of hay (full cows are warm cows) and there is a guy coming to pick up a pig this afternoon. We need to butcher a couple of rabbits, clean their cages and haul rabbit manure to the greenhouse. Several pine trees have fallen over at the pond and need to be cut up. If we somehow manage to do all of that the bathroom needs a coat of primer and there is all kinds of housework to do. Time for this sluggard to start pretending to be an ant.
I came in for a bite to eat around 2:00 then went back to it. The wind had picked up, the air had gotten colder but I still had work to do. Still no skin on the greenhouse but there is a handsome pile of wood in the house and the wood supply outside grew too. As the day wore on I had fewer and fewer helpers around me. I knew the work had to be completed. This was not optional. The kids went inside thinking I was a machine.
But we have already established that I am not. In fact, I think if my dad hadn’t come by to prod me I would have spent many more hours playing video games on the couch Wednesday.
I know what needs to be done but I’m comfortable. Maybe too comfortable. The more effective I am at being an ant the more I want to be a grasshopper. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the work. I had a ball Wednesday. But the couch is comfy. And the fence was working before. Surely it’s still working today…if not, that’s not so big a deal…right?
Too many days like that and the wood pile disappears. The pigs get stressed. The cows lose weight. Our savings get depleted. The cupboards go bare.
On the other hand, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
I have to both get my work done and take some time off. This is really coming into focus for us this week as Sunday we butchered a 400# hog, Tuesday we stayed out late with friends, Wednesday we did everything listed above, Thursday we had other friends for dinner, Friday we had family dinner plans and Saturday we finally finished the greenhouse, moved the cows and combined the pullets into the layer flock. As I finish this post on Sunday morning I am tired. Tired both from the ant stuff and from the grasshopper stuff.
I have to keep it in balance. My kids need to see that I am not a machine. I am human. I am dedicated to my family. Sometimes that dedication takes me away to restock the cupboards. Sometimes that dedication is expressed in playing board games. A little dose of ant. A little dose of grasshopper.
If we include Julie in the equation the average slides strongly toward ant. She’s a machine.