Saturday, February 16, 2013


Because I have kids, and because I spend my day with other people's kids, I am always thinking about the line between enabling and empowering.  When is my devotion to tracking down work, making sure kids do their best work, turning into enabling?  Am I empowering them to learn by nagging, or simple enabling irresponsibility?  It's for darned sure they won't be coddled at most universities or at most entry level jobs, but they won't have seven bosses and a schedule that would fell an ox, either. (Some of my students travel more than 5 hours a day, round trip, to get to school - after 6 hours of school and 2 hours of athletics). 

To be honest, the question comes up with adults.  When are you being a good friend, a generous giver and helper, and when is it time for self-reliance to kick in?  I have been the receiver of generosity - mostly my parents' generosity and have been profoundly grateful.  I am aware of the need to be generous with what I have - and I am very generous with my time, although I have little excess food or money to give, which makes me feel ungenerous, so it is constantly on my mind. 

I feel a little parsimonious, though, when it comes to our tractor.  People are always wanting to either borrow our tractor or have my husband come over with the tractor to save them from hand-tilling or hand-digging.  It's stressful, because our tractor isn't that big and a lot of the jobs being asked for are on rough aʻa lava and much too big a job for what amounts to a jumped-up lawn tractor.  Once we'd put tires (expensive) on the tractor only to have them chewed up by the lava on a friend's property - another time saw our tractor broken.  Fortunately, my husband could fix it with a jury-rigged solution, but it was a bit worrisome to be without our tractor and without the means to fix it, should it need expensive parts.  

I see on various online classified ads people looking for free or cheap livestock or places to live for work exchange, and some of the ads break my heart, and I wonder if I am being called to be generous - but we struggle to keep this place going.  It means living simply (my son calls it "being cheap") and I would be hard pressed to feed a mouth or two extra.  With a homestead which we're working to feed ourselves and not to produce a cash crop, we don't have the resources for an extra pair of hands - particularly as we are not at the point where we are even feeding ourselves completely.  To me it seems you need to produce a cash crop before you can think about hiring - and work stay is a way of hiring - the electricity and the food cost money.

People look at our house and barn now, and (one friend, in particular) look at how far they have to go and think we should share.  I am so aware of how much our parents have helped us, how that generosity has helped - but I also am aware of how really hard we worked to get here, and how hard we still have to work to both keep it and reach our self-sufficiency goals.  The work is still hard, even if it doesn't show quite so much as when we lived in the shack and when the house was a shell with bare studs on the inside.  I just would love to have enough extra produce to donate to the Food Bank, to help that homeless couple with a place to live and some board, to have so many sheep and producing chickens I could give that struggling family a few sheep and a small flock - hopefully, some day I will have that excess, but right now I slide into the second pay check of the month with $10 and we eat and live simply, and my neighbors are going to have to forgo the use of our tractor so we aren't faced with a big tractor sculpture in our barn rather than a working tractor.  And I will satisfy my need to be generous with tracking down kids and being generous with time and help when they need to improve their grades.  And keep praying about it, too, so I can find out ways to be generous. 


Barry said...

No easy answers here - but when you empower someone, the reason always seems more obvious than the enabling choice ("I know it won't help them to learn how to manage by themselves, but ..."). I learned the hard way about allowing others to access my tools, naively assuming they had a concience about not stealing (rationalized by the perp as "taking"). I rent a tool if I can't get my own, especially something as complex and expensive as a tractor. I am saving for just that implement, but I would never consider asking a neighbor to let me use theirs. Some folks are more willing to try to talk you into enabling them, so I now generally say "No" without offering any explanation or justification. Hard to do, yes, but if you have been doing without rather than letting others do something for you, you don't have to worry about it.

NancyDe said...

Fortunately, my husband is so much better at saying "No" than I am - and the tractor is really his territory. (He says, "No," to me, too! (: - especially when I want to drive.)