I just finished reading The Good Earth
a couple weeks ago and it’s been on my mind so much lately I just have to write down my thoughts before they fade away. I love this book. I read it years ago and have ever since claimed it as my favorite book. But lately I couldn’t even remember why (that’s how good my memory is) so I talked my book club into having it for our book last month.

I guess one of the reasons it affected me so much this time is because I love the correlation it gives between hard work and happiness. To put it simply, when the main character is working hard he is so fulfilled and satisfied. Things around him work together for good. When he’s idle and gets caught up in his riches and forgets how working hard on the land makes him whole, things fall apart.

And it worried me that I’m raising kids in such an affluent generation where hard work isn’t such the norm anymore (at least not where I live). I often smile to myself as I walk into the gym…I picture my great great grandma walking in there and wondering what in the world all these people are doing running around in place and lifting weights. People back then got such a workout from life they didn’t need stuff like that. Then I think of my own generation where kids had to ride their bikes or walk to get where they needed/wanted to go, had to mow their own lawns and had to earn their own money. Now I watch parents drive their kids everywhere (including me), these kids with wallets full of money given to them who have time to waste playing video games or watching TV while cleaning ladies dust the furniture around them.

I have to back up and say of course there are so many wonderful examples of hard workers still, and so many kids are so darn responsible it makes me drool because I wish my kids were more that way, but it just scares me the direction society’s moving. I know times have changed, and it’s scary to let kids roam most neighborhoods on their bikes and kids are so busy taking classes or with extracurricular activities that they don’t have time to clean their own bathrooms for pete’s sake, but that makes me sad. I’m not sure how to find the balance.

There are things I want my kids to have…great vacations together as a family, a nice place they can call home, lots of great books to read, classes to boost their coordination, musicality, self-esteem, etc. But I also want to help them find the joy involved with working HARD to earn a new book or toy they’re dying for, have them walk or ride their bikes to school (even when there’s a bus available) and realize how thankful they are for a body that works so well, watch them tear up when they realize they’ve helped someone who really needed them after they’ve given selfless service, feel the full heart that comes with giving up something important to them because someone else needs it worse, and letting them lose themselves in the joy and satisfaction that comes from hard work. And the question is how do I give these, the most important things, to them? How do I make life harder in order to make it better?

Random thoughts…it’s late and I hope I’m making sense. I guess the bottom line is that there’s nothing like sitting back together after a Saturday’s hard work and taking pride in how the house smells and looks, how beautifully manicured the yard is, and realizing that we’ve done it all ourselves…we’ve worked so hard and now we can really play. That kind of hard work gives a high that I want my kids (and Dave & I) to have more of. That’s what The Good Earth taught me this time around.

{More reviews on The Good Earth here.}

Similar Posts


  1. I agree completely with you on the hard work aspect and the ease with which kids these days come by things. I so often wish we could just slow down and simplify a little bit. I think in some small way, that’s why we moved out where we did.

  2. Amen! I just read The Good Earth for the first time over the weekend, and I have been thinking about it constantly. I’ve been recommending it to everyone because it teaches beautifully and powerfully the ideals of hard work, simplicity, frugality, and humility…these are important values and should be considered as such, rather than just as means to an end. -Dan

  3. When you read a book like the Good Earth you wonder why you waste your time on Oprah’s Book Club list. Everyone should read that book. Thanks for the great insights that we have all taken notice of….you worded it so well.

  4. Just linked over to you from Kara. I remember reading this book in high school, but certainly not getting this much out of it. Kara’s mentioned it several times on her blog too. I definitely am going to go read it again. Thanks for the post.

  5. I KNOW that idleness and apathy are two of Satan’s major tools. Especially in a society focused on abundance and convenience. It’s no wonder that the Lord’s mission statement is “This is my WORK and my glory!” There’s no joy, glory, peace etc without work!

  6. I could not have said it better Shawni. That is what I want most for my kids. I was lucky to have parents who provided a great balance, but like you said, these days it’s hard to find it. I think with anything else that is worth it…..it takes work. Nothing that’s worth it comes easy….even raising kids. Your the best, you continually inspire me.

  7. oh man Shawni, I am so glad I have you to look up. You have got an incredible sensitivity to always seek for what’s right. Thanks for posting your thoughts about this. I’m going to have to go check out the book from the library.

  8. I totally agree with everything you so thoughtfully wrote. It’s a constant struggle with trying to teach our kids and not completely spoil them with so much that is out there. A good quote I heard once is: “Just because I can afford it doesn’t mean I need to buy it.”

  9. I too love your ramdom thoughts. Hard work always leaves a wake of good feelings and usually happiness. I am happy I found your blog. I ran across the link to Dave and Shawni on another blog, and I have only known one Shawni I met in Jerusalem in 1991. I am glad it was you. I have just entered into the world of blogs and I find them intriguing. I have a lame blog if you want to check it it out. http://jacobsfamilynewsblog.blogspot.com/

    Thanks again for your thoughts.


  10. i was just talking to a woman at the dentist about this very thing today. i want my children to find value in hard work and joy in the simple things.

    yep, tristan’s my boy. i guess we just missed eachother that day. i was there just a short time before you.

    tara IS my friend but josh was probably thalking about my friend christine who is her friend also. he didn’t know that we were friends until that day that you met tristan. we have an 8 person scrapbook posse. we get together a few times a year for the weekend and do some catching-up and we just remember why we love eachother so much. a few of the girls have been together for 11 years and i’ve been around for 7 years. i love every second of it. they are the best group of girls. we’ve known tara since before she was “famous”…fyi, she really is as great as she seems.

  11. Hey Shauni, it’s Melissa’s little sister.
    I loved reading your post. My Mom and I were just talking about this same thing last night. Your words really hit home for me and made me want to be better, do better, and find joy in working harder and to teach my kids these same things. So THANK YOU for inspiring me and for the great book recommendation.
    Any helpful tips are welcomed!

  12. Oh man Shawni, I love you! This is such a great essay on work! We’
    re doing a new blog on the Valuesparenting website and this is exactly what we need to post there. Rick wants all the kids to add things as they come up their lives just like this! I’ll let you know when we get it ready to roll…which should have been last week. I need to post a couple of things first and then have you all have at it! I’ve got to read The Good Earth again. The thing that impessed me most the last time I read it was that she had her baby on a break from working in the fields and then went right back to work. I was pregnant at the time and I have never forgotten that!
    Love you,

  13. Shawni, what a nice post, and such a very important subject. My littles are 3 and 20 months, and thanks to your blog, and a few others I have found lately, I have been thinking so much about the choices we make every day as parents. In the midst of the day to day, it is easy to forget that absolutely every moment matters to these amazing souls God has given us all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *