Row upon Row
Life is ironic. So much of our understanding of a concept is based on our cultural context, past experience, and personal bias. “Hard work” can often be a very relative term. Some of us work hard at labour-intensive jobs, some of us carry the weight and stress of being the decision makers for organizations, some of us do what we can to avoid work altogether. In our culture, it can almost even seem that we sometimes work hard at our play and invest our time, energy and resources into our toys, possessions, and experiences.In our School Of Leadership, we have an incredible experience that is now fondly named, “The Shack”. The Shack is our own version of what life would be like for the millions of people that live well below the poverty line, and basically exist on less than $2 a day. In their world, home ownership is often a pipedream, school is a privilege often denied, and healthcare is non-existent. These are the working class poor, and they are what keeps our consumer costs low, our food picked fresh, our electronics affordable, and our closets full of clothes that we can afford. The Shack is a 7 day experience that each of our leadership students get involved in, and they eat, sleep, and work among the poor, learning how life and survival happens at that level. It is a life-altering experience, and we are proud of how compassionate and inspired each of them become as a result. This year, however, there was something new in store for the students: they were able to go to work with the migrant Mexican workers and join them in the fields and labour alongside of them to help see life from their viewpoint.Brett, one of our School of Leadership Staff Members, filled me in on what life was like that day…“Shack Work Day #6 started out with an early wake up at 4am. After cooking their breakfast over an open fire, the students were picked up at 4:45am at the highway to be brought to a local ranch to work in the fields. The minute the students stepped out of the truck, they got all kinds of looks from the Mexican workers, they could not figure out why these “Americans” would want to work in the fields.“The day started with the students picking buckets full of cucumbers and hauling them to a big truck. They worked on the cucumbers for a couple of hours and by the time they were ready to move on to planting strawberry plants, they had picked two huge trucks full of cucumbers. It was only 9am but it felt like they had been out there for a really long time, and they were already feeling sore. They were then taken to a strawberry field where they were given a tool and a bucket full of strawberry plants. They used the tool to help push the strawberry roots deeper into the soil. They were constantly bent over, and they got so used to being bent over that it hurt a lot when they had to stand straight up. They all worked really hard. In fact, some of the old ladies working there said that the “little white girls” were hard workers, and out of an effort to encourage our students, the older ladies finished their own rows and came back and helped the girls finish theirs as well.“It’s really hard to believe that people do this their whole lives. Working row upon row are children who should be in school alongside of seniors who should be free to relax and rest. The students were also thinking that a lot of these women would go home after a really hard day out at the fields to make supper, do laundry, and clean. The Mexicans work so hard, day in and day out, for a mere 110 pesos. There is no pay increase here – they all work for the same amount of income. The only incentive offered is easier jobs for the older workers. Not much of an incentive, really.“The students didn’t really want to talk to me after because they said they had no words to describe what they had felt towards these extremely hard working people. They were feeling humbled and overwhelmed by the sadness of reality. For the students, after tomorrow they get to go back to their beds, warm showers, and a warm home, but the people whom they worked alongside will return to their own shack, left in their own poverty, only to repeat it all tomorrow.”Row upon row, hour by hour, the world’s working poor labour to make our world easier and more comfortable. We cannot escape its effects on our lives, but we can work to make it better. Through our conscious choices, our efforts can help to change things. In LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), we make every effort to be conscious of what we are adding our voice to by our consumer choices. We encourage each of our students, our Hero Holiday participants and our staff and volunteers to do the same. During each of our Hero Holidays, we take time to help educate our participants about how they can add their voice to change and make a difference where they are at. The possibilities are endless; they are only limited by our own willingness to make the effort. We may not be able to single-handedly change the world, but little by little, as we dream and take action together we can make the world a better place for those who need to know that it can be.To find out more about our School of Leadership or Hero Holiday, check out www.livedifferent.com.