A simple American farmer could own his land and have voice in the laws of the government. His regard for this newfound independence, his devotion to God, his reverence for home and love of hard work made him quite a fellow that the rest of the world looked up to. Everyone in America could be equal to kings and queens abroad; and this, in short, is the heritage we often take for granted and manage sometimes to forget.
It becomes easy to forget in our everyday existence when so many things are done for us: life becomes dull because we are robbed of the pleasure of doing things for ourselves. The government is doing more for us now than we realize, even more than a self-reliant person might wish. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. Less self-reliant now, we feel less important than we used to. Back in pioneer days we were completely aware of our self dependence because everything we ate and drank, everything we wore, almost everything we touched were results of our own labor. We had reason to believe we were pretty important in those days.
What a bore life has become! When we turn on a water faucet we have no idea where the water comes from. When we want light, we simply flick on a switch without knowing where the power came from. Our clothes might come from Chicago or Hong Kong but we couldn’t care less: our food comes from somewhere by truck or train-what’s the difference? The actual difference is that if you had dug your own well, you would savor that water like fine wine. If you made your own candles for light, you’d enjoy the fruits of your labor, prizing those candles, actually enjoying the light they gave. If your father raised the sheep and your mother spun the wool to make your socks and your suit, you’d be pretty proud of them and never think of discarding them even when worn out. A house and furniture made of trees you felled yourself would become museum pieces to you. Your whole life would be full of the evidences of your own value, therefore your life would be richer and more meaningful, Such was the awareness and spiritual richness of early days that does not exist today.
Eric Sloane, “Once Upon a Time, The Way America Was”
Isn’t that a great passage? Back when I could change tires myself (before they started putting the lug nuts on so tight that you can’t break them loose), it was really empowering. My relatives came out to visit me and had a flat. I changed it for them. I’m not sure my uncle has changed a tire. He’s an engineer and physical labor isn’t his thing. Lon went shopping with me the other day and got to learn what prices are like now. He said “If you have a garden, you could save a lot of money.” That’s true, and you have the advantage of raising that food yourself. You know how to do it and you won’t waste it. I like spinning and knitting because I can. If I make a garment out of handspun, I’ve had every inch of that fiber go through my fingers twice. It doesn’t bore me. In fact, I make use of otherwise wasted time. I could be staring at my cell phone instead.