“There is a spirit growing in the world today to try to see how little we can do and how much we can get for doing it. This is all wrong. Our spirit and aim should be to do all we possibly can, in a given length of time, for the benefit of those who employ us and for the benefit of those with whom we are associated.”
Heber J. Grant, Mormon theologian and former church president
The above quote was spoken more than 70 years ago, but applies perhaps even more today. We are living in a world where the majority of people seem consumed with getting more from their employer, their government, or their fellow citizens, for as little work as they can muster.
We have traded the spirit of sacrifice for the spirit of entitlement.
I’ll never forget my brief stint as an assistant manager of a bungee tower in Logan, Utah in the mid-90s. The first summer we had more business than we could possibly handle. By the next summer, however, our crowds were smaller, and employees often had considerable down time in between customers. I tried to set a good example by sweeping the ticket booth, and pulling weeds around the walkways or watering the flower beds. I recall trying to convince a lackadaisical employee to get his hands dirty, and make the workplace look a little nicer while we waited for the next crowd.
His reply was, “I’m getting paid either way. Why should I bother? Besides it’s kinda hot to pull weeds.”
I contrast that sorry attitude with an inspiring story I heard not long ago about a middle-aged man in Wichita, Kansas who found himself unemployed from his aerospace engineering job and worried about supporting his large family. At the time, he was a lay leader in his church. Remarkably, after prayerful consideration, he decided to forego any unemployment benefits to which he would otherwise be entitled. Instead, he took two of his sons and drove around neighborhoods offering to mow lawns for money. He also accepted a night-time position at Wal-Mart stocking shelves. This backbreaking routine continued for more than a year before he found work again in his field. His faith was severely tested and he depleted much of his savings in the process, but he was true to his belief system.
I thought of the humility it would take for a well-educated father and church leader to submit himself for physical labor. And I thought of the wonderful example he set for his children that no matter what hardships beset them, that they could survive through reliance on God, and their own two hands.
Many of us have faced hardships and had to accept assistance. Looking back, however, do we not sometimes feel that the assistance enabled us to slack off? Did accepting money we did not earn make us better people? What if more of the world viewed unemployment benefits as optional? Or perks of the job as unnecessary extravagances? What if workers refused to accept paychecks they didn’t feel they had fully earned?
I think of the wonderful example set by Governor Palin when she gave up the governor’s private plane, personal chef, and chauffeur. Certainly she was entitled to these perks of office, was she not? But partly, I think, out of humility, and partly out of practicality to save money for taxpayers, she eschewed these comforts, and taught her children not to become accustomed to a luxurious taxpayer-subsidized lifestyle.
As she reflected in Going Rogue, while individual legislators billed the state for $20,000 in per diem charges per session, the First Family refused to accept the full amount to which they would have been “entitled” in per diems:
We saved tens of thousands of dollars in our very first year just by discontinuing the perks like fancy meals. When I was outside Juneau, I accepted the normal meal per diem of $60 but refused the per diem checks for the other six eligible First Family members (including a $100 check made out to Piper. I handed it back and said, “Piper can’t eat that much in a month”), and we refused the housing per diem as well. I also stayed in our own house in Wasilla while working in the Anchorage office and when plumbing repairs kept us out of the mansion for months, rather than have the state put me up-as it had for previous governors-in an expensive hotel or a rented apartment. … I’m still trying to find a hotel in Anchorage that will put up a family of seven and feed five hungry kids for sixty bucks a night.
Last summer, Pulitzer Prize winning Palin basher Kathleen Parker revealed another humble surprise about Sarah Palin: She mows her own yard, once again showing that she is anything but a “diva.”
We know Sarah Palin exudes the spirit of sacrifice and hard work. Anyone who has ever voluntarily relinquished a powerful or well-paying position knows her decision to step down from the governorship was a huge sacrifice, despite attempts by her detractors to paint her as a greedy schemer.
Sarah Palin could have had all the perks of office – as well as the fame and notoriety and book deals. (Just check out Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick who is currently promoting a book while serving as governor.) But her employer, the taxpayers, would not have been well-served had she remained in office. Her political enemies didn’t care who suffered from their hateful tactics. Gov. Palin did the right thing by her employer, the taxpayers. She took one for the team. Her words at the time, so aptly summarize what the truly humble and brave desire:
If I die politically, I die.
When we do the right thing, we don’t automatically reap benefits. So often, like the gentleman in Wichita, we lose benefits. Our life becomes harder, not easier. But we sleep well at night knowing we’re serving a greater purpose. We’re teaching our children how to live noble lives.
Any time we reject a perk, go the extra mile in our job, or set aside our egos for the greater good … we’re making the world a better place. We’re demonstrating the spirit of sacrifice that built and continues to uplift this nation.
Governor Palin frequently praises the military. No doubt what she admires most about America’s men and women in uniform is their inspiring spirit of sacrifice, for which they can never be fully compensated.
She reflected on Track’s deployment ceremony that took place while she was running for vice president. Tragically, 12 of Track’s fellow soldiers died while serving their country.
One beautiful but solemn day about six weeks before the final vote, 3,500 Alaska-based troops were about to be deployed to a war zone overseas. I sat in the crowd on that chilly autumn day on the military base to honor those brave souls, knowing that far too many wouldn’t be seen by us again until their pictures flashed across some news screen announcing they had made the ultimate sacrifice for America.
And they were headed into a mission that asked them to be ready to sacrifice all in a fight for freedom.
We should all aspire to that spirit of sacrifice, even in small and simple ways. Instead of asking “What’s in it for me?” we should, like these heroes, bravely and humbly ask, “How can I serve the common good?”