Many of you know that my Irish Indian Grandmother served as a major source of inspiration for me while I was growing up. She lost my grandfather just a few years after their 14th baby was born. Having lost two children at birth, she rolled up her sleeves and worked tirelessly to raise her twelve children. I can’t even imagine how many meals she must have cooked, homes she must have cleaned, and clothes she must have sewn to provide for a family that size- but she did. And in all of the years I spent learning from her, I never once heard my grandmother complain about working hard. She always said that hard work was God’s way of building our character. She also said that a person who can’t work hard and find satisfaction in their life lacks the ability to be happy regardless of their circumstances. She used to tell me this old Irish tale, and in honor of Labor Day, I thought I’d share it with you.
Once upon a time in Ireland, there was a poor stonecutter named Hofus who used to go every day to the mountainside to cut great blocks of stone. He lived near the mountain in a little stone hut and worked hard and was happy.
One day he took a load of stone to the house of a rich man. There he saw so many beautiful things that when he went back to his mountain he could think of nothing else. Then he began to wish that he too might sleep in a bed as soft as down with curtains of silk and tassels of gold. And he sighed, ”Ah me! Ah me! If Hofus only were rich as he!” To his surprise, the voice of the Mountain Spirit answered, ”Have thou thy wish!”
When Hofus returned home that evening his little hut was gone and in its place stood a great palace. It was filled with beautiful things- and the best of all was a bed of down with curtains of silk and tassels of gold.
Hofus decided to work no more. But he was not used to being idle and time passed slowly, the days seemed very long. One day as he sat by the window he saw a carriage dash past. It was drawn by snow white horses. In it sat a prince while before and behind were servants in suits of blue and white. One was holding a golden umbrella over the prince.
When the stone cutter saw this, he began to feel unhappy, and he sighed, ”Ah me! Ah me! If Hofus only a prince might be!” And again the same voice that he had heard on the mountain answered, ”Be thou a prince!”
Straightway Hofus was a prince. He had servants dressed in crimson and gold, and he rode in a carriage with a golden umbrella over his head. For a short time he was happy, but one day, as he walked in the garden, he saw that the flowers were drooping; the grass was dry and brown. And when he rode out he felt the hot sun burn him in spite of his umbrella.
“The sun is mightier than I,” thought he, and then he sighed, ”Ah me! Ah me! If Hofus only the sun might be!” And the voice answered, “Be thou the sun!”
Straightway the great sun he became. He burned the grass and rice fields. He dried up the streams. Rich and poor alike suffered from the terrible heat. One day a cloud came and rested in front of him, and hid the earth from his sight. He was angry and cried, ”Ah me! Ah me! If Hofus only a cloud might be!” And the voice answered, “Be thou a cloud!”
Straightway a cloud he became. He floated before the face of the sun and hid the earth from it. Then day after day the cloud dropped rain. The rivers overflowed and the rice fields were covered with water. Towns were swept away. Only the great rocks on the mountainside stood unmoved midst the flood.
The cloud looked at them in wonder, then he sighed, “Ah me! Ah me! If Hofus only a rock might be!” And the voice answered, “Be thou a rock!”
Straightway a rock he became. Proudly he stood. The sun could not burn him and the rain could not move him. “Now, at last,” he said, “no one is mightier than I.” But one day he was waked from his dreams by a noise- tap! tap! tap! – down at his feet. He looked and there was a stonecutter driving his tool into the rock. Another blow and the great rock shivered; a block of stone broke away.
“That man is mightier than I!” cried Hofus, and he sighed, “Ah me! Ah me! If Hofus only the man might be!” And the voice answered, “Be thou thyself!”
And straightway Hofus was himself again- a poor stonecutter, working all day upon the mountainside and going home at night to his little hut. Yet, he was content and happy and never again did he wish to be anyone or anything other than Hofus the stonecutter.
Monday Morning Perspective
“I don’t pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.”–Theodore Roosevelt
“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.” -Pope Paul VI
I hope that you find fulfillment in all of your hard work, for it’s certainly not in vain. Even when the load seems too heavy, we are given an incredible opportunity to learn and grow. When we work through the tough times, we are given a chance to sit back and reflect. I hope that your Labor Day holiday has given you at least a moment to do exactly that.
Have a wonderful week!
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