Santa Clarita Signal • Opinion Column • Ethically Speaking • July 13, 2014
Cause, Effect, and Satisfaction
David W. Hegg
I grew up working odd jobs to earn money. In the winter I would go from house to house with my snow shovel, and in the summer you could find me wheeling my gas lawn mower down the block to service the five families that paid me to mow their lawns weekly. It was a great operation, and kept me in soda, sunflower seeds, and fishing bait throughout my summer vacation from school.
After getting married and buying our first house I once again became the chief lawn engineer in the family, responsible to edge, mow, and blow. And I loved it! For years and years I found great satisfaction every Saturday morning in taking my lawn from shabby to sharp.
Now that we have mostly hardscape, shrubs and palm trees, I kind of miss mowing the lawn even though it has almost nothing to do with actually starting the mower and running it back and forth across the grass. What I miss is seeing something get done.
If you are like me you spend your days doing all sorts of things for which there are no scoreboards, no grades at the end, no specific visible effects. Maybe you are a classroom teacher, or a manager, or working some other job where the ultimate effect of your effort isn’t seen until many other folks do their jobs. Or maybe what you’re trying to accomplish takes time, involves the minds and hearts of those you may never meet, and as a result, you often end your days wondering just what really was accomplished.
Maybe the American infatuation with sport is tied into our intrinsic need to know whether we have won or lost. At the end of the game, regardless of how we feel or how our team played, there is a winner and a loser. But for most of us, the important things in life seem to be more cause than effect, and that is hard to deal with, and even harder to sustain.
Take parenting for example. As we raised our kids we put tons of effort into teaching them, mentoring them, correcting them, and just generally trying to mold them into productive, generous, kind, and courageous contributors to society. There were long stretches of time when we wondered if our words were just bouncing off without any effect. We wondered if they would ever “get it.”
And what about those of us who teach, or counsel, or are in customer service? We do our thing day after day, week after week and are often left to wonder if anyone’s life is significantly better because of our efforts.
But once in a while, it happens. It’s like we’ve been pushing the lawn mower for years and years and finally, it all comes into focus and we see, after all that time, there is a well-cut lawn laid out in front of us. Our work has brought about the desired effect, and we realize a level of satisfaction that only comes at the end of the long road of diligent effort.
On Father’s Day my adult, married son gave me a book that had a great impact on him. Along with it came a note explaining his deep gratitude for the lessons he had learned from me over many years. I will never allow that note, or the tears it brought, to be far from my memory simply because his life is to me like a well-mown lawn.
So, don’t think your effort is going to waste if what you are doing, and the purposes you are pursuing are noble and fueled by the highest ethical standards. Dare to do great things, and don’t be put off by the uncertainty of the moment. At some point you’ll round the corner and see the effects you have helped to cause. There laying in front of you will be some lives that are on the right path in part because of what you poured into them. Be it your kids, your marriage, your clients, or your community, investing your life to make others better is a cause that will always bring about great effect, and even greater satisfaction, no matter how long you have to wait to enjoy the smell of freshly mown grass.